Sunday, February 15, 2015


In the previous two Data Points posts, we've written that:

  • the SBAC will be given this spring to students grades 3-8 and 10, and schools are required to do the testing under the NCLB waiver. Science exams will be given in grades 5, 7, and 10.
  • Much lower percentage of students (30-40%) will meet the cut scores for proficiency on the SBAC/Science exams than did on the old ISAT (75-90%).
And now, the State Board of Education is proposing rules to the Legislature that will use those proficiency scores to determine eligibility for high school graduation.  The road ahead is littered with potential serious problems for students.

Here is the language in the proposed State Board of Education rule, introduced in the Senate Education Committee last week:

"IDAPA Rule 08.0203.1401.06 Proficiency. Each student must achieve a proficient or advanced score on the grade ten (10) Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in math, reading and language usage in order to graduate...A student who does not attain at least a proficient score prior to graduation may appeal to the school district or LEA, and will be given an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency of the content standards through some other locally established plan...

g. Students who graduate in 2019 are required to pass the ISAT  (SBAC) in grade eleven (11) in mathematics 
and English language usage at a proficiency level set by the State Board of Education...

i. Students who graduate in 2019 will be required to pass an end of course assessment in biology or 
chemistry at a proficiency level set by the State Board of Education."

Students must pass all 3 assessments in order to graduate from high school, or demonstrate proficiency using some "alternate route" designed by districts. Using the proficiency percentages generated from the SBAC pilot in English Language Arts and Math, and adding in the unknown of the yet-to-be-administered Science EOC, it's not hard to imagine 60-70% of students statewide involved in retakes in junior year and pursuit of the "alternate path" to high school graduation.

In fact, to check our assumptions, we looked at members of the Boise District high school graduating class of 2009, and identified those class members who have graduated from college with a certificate, an Associate degree, or a Bachelor's degree. Then we used the SAT and ACT scores of those students as a proxy for the SBAC, and identified the students who did/did not meet the "college ready" standards of those exams.

We found that 40% of these college graduates did not meet at least one of the readiness standards of the College Entrance Exam they took in high school. Among those who obtained an Associate degree or a Certificate, the percentage not meeting the standard was 63%; among 4-year degree holders it was 39%. 25% of STEM majors did not meet the criteria, and over half of Business majors' scores fell  below the cutoff. In other words, if these students were held accountable to the proposed graduation standards, many of them would have been required to take remediation in high school and been told they were not "college and career ready".

And what of the students who are earning Professional-Technical licenses in areas such as Auto Body, Welding, or Heavy Duty Diesel, courses that will assure them of being career ready and employable right out of high school? They will also need to prove they are "college ready" by passing the SBAC.

The Individual Mandate for high school graduation will go into effect for the class of 2019, students currently in the 8th grade, if the proposed rule noted above is affirmed on February 18 at the State Board meeting in Boise, and is ultimately approved by either of the legislative Education Committees.