Sunday, January 25, 2015

AVID Update - Student Success!

The Boise District's Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is in its ninth year. From its inception with 85 students at Fairmont Junior High School in 2006-07 to its current status with 1034 students in grade 7-12 across the district, AVID has been a tremendous success.

For readers unfamiliar with the program, here's a brief summary of AVID:

AVID enrollment has climbed steadily as the program has expanded to all eight junior high schools and the five District high schools. In 2014-15, we see the student population stabilize as all high schools have implemented the program. 

The most important goal of the AVID program is that students attend college and are successful. We use National Student Clearinghouse data to verify that AVID students are going on to post-secondary pursuits. Starting with the first AVID graduating class from Capital High School in 2011, here are the statistics for each successive AVID graduating class:

Eleven of the 15 high school graduates in that first AVID class are still in college. Four are attending BSU, 2 are at ISU, and once each is attending UI,  NNU, CWI, Spokane Falls Community College, and Blue Mountain Community College (OR).

The class of 2012 started out strong, with 90% of its 39 members entering college the semester after graduation, compared with the District average of 59%. In year 3, 54% of the class members are still attending colleges and universities.

Class of 2012 AVID graduates are attending Idaho (4), BSU (6), ISU (2), C of I (5), CWI (1), Austin (TX) CC (1), Pepperdine University (1), and Grand Canyon University (1).

The class of 2013 saw expanded numbers as Borah and Capital combined had 68 AVID graduates. 47 of those graduates (69%) are in their sophomore year of college.

Class of 2013 AVID students are attending the following colleges: BSU (15), Idaho (6), CWI (12), College of Idaho (4), and one each at the University of Utah, Baylor University, Seattle University, Graceland (IA) College,  Carrington College, Stevens-Henager College, Eastern Oregon University, Northern Arizona University, Prince George's (MD) CC and ISU.

Eighteen (18) of the 2014 grads are attending BSU, 8 are at Idaho, 7 at CWI, 3 at ISU, and one each are attending Oregon State University, Hawaii Pacific University, Brigham Young University, Eastern Oregon University, Whittier College (CA), Willamette University (OR), LCSC, and University of Nevada-Reno.

All told, 178 students from the AVID program have graduated from Boise Schools, and 147 (83%) entered college the first semester after graduation. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of AVID high school graduates are still attending college, pursuing their dreams of a degree.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Here Comes the SBAC ISAT 2.0

The SBAC test is now referred to as ISAT 2.0, a moniker sure to confuse parents and media as we head into the first “real” administration this spring of the new Common Core – based assessments in math and reading. Idaho is part of a 21-state consortium which will use the Smarter Balanced assessments. There is another consortium of states which will use the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments.

Much of the issue with testing, as we see it, is at the federal level, where the USDOE mandates that all students at grades 3-8 and once in high school take assessments in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind law and receive federal funding allocations for low-income schools, Special Education, and other areas.. Though some national legislative efforts to overhaul the law and reduce federal involvement in education are underway, it’s uncertain how far they will proceed.


The State Department of Education has indicated that the tested grades for the SBAC will be 3-8 and 10, with 9th and 11th grades offered as options for districts which want to test. Students taking the SBAC will take separate English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments, each lasting 3-4 hours per student.

The SBAC recommends that 11th grade be the high school testing grade for the SBAC , but Idaho has chosen to administer the test in 10th grade, to avoid conflicts with the SAT and to provide opportunities for “banking” scores once the test becomes a graduation requirement.

The Idaho Department of Education  is recommending that current 9th and 11th graders take the SBAC as well, in order to prepare 9th graders for the coming 10th grade tests, and to provide 11th graders with an indication of :college and career readiness".

Tenth graders will also take a new Science End of Course test in Biology or Chemistry.  The Science EOCs are currently in development, and will be written by Idaho teachers. Ninth graders are not allowed to take the EOC because of Idaho’s waiver agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. This is unfortunate, since as many as 350 9th graders in the Boise District are currently enrolled in Accelerated Biology.


Using data from last year’s field tests, “cut scores” for the SBAC have been established. These data allowed the SBAC Governing Board to estimate the percentages of students that will achieve “passing scores” on this spring’s SBAC. 

Estimates are that 41% of 11th graders will achieve proficient or advanced scores in Language Arts across the SBAC consortium, and that 33% will “pass” the math test. 

However, since 10th graders will take the 11th grade test in Idaho, the passing percentages will undoubtedly be lower.


The SBAC will be used to judge “college and career” preparedness among Idaho students. Pending State Board approval in February, beginning with the class of 2019 (current 8th graders), passage of the Math and English Language Arts SBAC tests and of one of the two EOC’s (Chemistry or Biology) will also be a requirement for high school graduation. 

In other words, two years from now, 10th graders taking the two SBAC tests and the Science EOC will be required to pass each of those assessments in order to graduate from high school. Eleventh grade retakes will be required for students who do not pass as 10th graders, and districts will offer some sort of "alternate path" coursework to seniors who still have not passed the exams.

Among the issues with the SBAC administration will be the definition of “college and career readiness”.  There is no doubt that many students who have completed dual credit classes and acquired college credit will be judged on the SBAC as not prepared for college and career, and be subject to remediation in high school and as entering college students. Others may have completed a certificate in Welding or in Auto Tech/Auto Body, and be at risk for high school graduation because they do not “pass’ the SBAC.

Yet these students, whether they take dual credit academic classes or professional-technical courses, will have successfully completed college and career level curricula.

Additionally, some students may earn a “college ready” score on the SAT, administered in junior year, while scoring “Basic” or Below Basic” mark on the SBAC.  What exactly, then, will determine if a student is ready for college and/or career?

More to come on this topic as the time for testing nears. The testing window for the SBAC  and the Science EOC is March 30-May 22. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Boise District Class Size Updated

In April, we posted class size data for the Boise District, and distinguished between average class size and student-teacher ratio. Following is the 2014-15 update of average class size for the District.

As the economy improved and property values began to increase within the District boundaries, the Boise Board approved reduction of the 2012 voter-approved levy. Initially, though voters approved a $14 million levy, the District ran the levy for only $12 million. For the 2014-15 school year, the Board unanimously approved lowering the amount of the levy to $6.5 million. The purpose of the levy was to maintain or reduce District class sizes.


Here is the average elementary class size in the Boise District since 2003-04, updated with the 2014-15 data point:


At the junior high level, average class sizes dropped by .7 from 2013-14 to 2014-15.  

Here are average junior high class sizes by department. Note that in only two departments, Music and Technology, are average class sizes higher in 2014-14 than they were in 2013-14. In every other department, 2014-15 sizes are lower.

In the chart below, average class sizes by junior high are displayed  for 2013-14 and 2014-15.


Boise District senior high class sizes had been trending downward for several years, when, in 2014-15, District high schools moved from a 6-period day to 7 periods. Class sizes dropped again as a similar number of senior high students took additional offerings.

However, the class size trends were not distributed evenly among departments. Students took additional electives in order to fill their schedules, and, in departments which offer only electives (Technology, Art, Business, Marketing, Human Development) average class sizes  increased (though they are still relatively low).

In departments which offer primarily required courses ("core subjects") average class sizes dropped. These departments included Math. Social Studies, Language Arts, and Science.

Finally, here are senior high average class sizes by school for 2013-14 and 2014-15: