Friday, May 29, 2015


Advanced Placement test-taking numbers increased dramatically in 2015, as larger numbers of students took the challenging exams, and the number of exams taken increased, as well.


The number of students taking at least one Advanced Placement exam reached an all-time high in 2015, increasing by 196 students from 2014 to a 2015 total of 1792. A significant portion of the increase came at Borah High School, where this year every student who took an Advanced Placement course was asked to also take the AP exam.. Increased financial support from the State of Idaho for Advanced Opportunities, as well as already established support from the Boise Schools Foundation, made it possible for students to take the exams at no cost.

Participation in the exam program was up this year at Boise High (+31 students) and at Timberline (+27), as well as at Borah (+160).


As you might imagine, the number of exams taken also increased dramatically in 2015, increasing over 2014 by 438 to reach a total of 3670.

Again, the largest increase was at Borah High School, where exams taken grew by 256 from the previous year. Boise's exam total increased by 85, Capital's by 33, and Timberline's by 60.

Another factor in the increased totals is the large number of AVID students now enrolled in 11th and 12th grade at all four comprehensive high schools and taking Advanced Placement coursework. There are currently 235 juniors and seniors enrolled in AVID in the Boise School District.


AP test participation patterns have changed in the past few years, as more sophomores have taken courses and participated in the exam program. The number of sophomores taking an AP exam increased from 74 in 2010 to 324 in 2014. Almost 80% of the exams given to sophomores in 2014 were for 3 courses: AP Human Geography, AP Physics B, and AP World History. Human Geography has been primarily a course for sophomores since it was introduced in the District. World History has become popular with sophs more recently.

Nationally in 2014, about 15% of AP exams were taken by 9th and 10th graders. The vast majority of those exams were in Human Geography (primarily by 9th graders), and World History (primarily by 10th graders). In Boise in 2014, 20% of exams were taken by 9th and 10th graders.


It's important to note that Advanced Placement exams are scored on a 1-5 scale, with scores of 3, 4, and 5 eligible for college credit or waiver of coursework. Whether or not students receive credits or course waivers for AP test scores is determined by the individual colleges and universities. The College Board, which offers AP course outlines and audits districts' fidelity to the AP curricula, provides a comprehensive list of college credit policies for AP exams.

Even if so student does not score a 3 or above on an AP test, the experience of taking a college-level test that is offered nationwide will help a student to succeed in college.

NOTE: This post was edited to delete a chart portraying percentage of juniors and seniors taking an AP exam - the chart was inaccurate. We have asked the College Board for cohort numbers of exam takers - that is, the number of graduates in each class who took an exam any time in their high school careers. We'll report those numbers as percentages of graduating classes in a future post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


In January, 2009, Hidden Springs Charter School's (HSCS) Board of Trustees asked the Boise School District to take over operation of the school beginning in the 2009-10 school year, owing to financial difficulties at the charter school. After the Hidden Springs Board declared bankruptcy, the Boise District bought the school building and its contents from the Bank of America for $3.5 million in January, 2010, and invested over $500,000 in repairs and upgrades to the building.

Over the past six school years, enrollment at Hidden Springs Elementary has dipped about 70 students, as the school has become a true "neighborhood school".

During the same period, open enrollment has dropped from 84 to 41, and out-of-district open enrollment has declined from 41 to 4. Most out-of-district open enrollment into Hidden Springs Charter School had been from Eagle, a community in the Meridian (now West Ada) School District.

Some in the Hidden Springs community feared that a Boise District takeover might mean "lower standards" which would lead to declining academic performance among Hidden Springs students. However, the District retained the Harbor Method, which had been a staple of the charter school, and maintained the curriculum of the school, which was oriented around the standards followed by all elementary schools in the District, in order to facilitate a seamless transfer to junior high school.

In fact, Hidden Springs has remained a high achieving school since its integration into the Boise School District. Most of the excellent staff at the school remained teaching at Hidden Springs, and strong community involvement continued in the neighborhood.

On the "old ISAT", used before the SBAC became the new measure of proficiency in 2015, high levels of proficiency were common in schools across the state of Idaho. Hidden Springs' proficiency rates were exceptionally high, and over 95% of students were typically proficient in any given year. This continued after the transition of HSCS to Hidden Springs Elementary School.

At the time, we used percentages of "Advanced" ISAT performance as the barometer for success at District schools. Here are the percentages of Hidden Springs students scoring in the Advanced range in Reading and Math before the transition, and after.

On the Reading subtest, of the ISAT, the percentage of Hidden Springs students scoring in the Advanced category was higher in every year after the transition from charter school to District elementary school than it was prior to the transition..

On the Math subtest, of the ISAT, the percentage of Hidden Springs students scoring in the Advanced category was higher in every year after the transition from charter school to District elementary school than it was the year prior to the transition, and about the same in 09-10, 10-11, and 11-12 as it was in 07-08.

The smooth transition from charter to elementary school was the result of diligence and patience on the part of Boise District trustees and administrators, the staff at Hidden Springs, and members of the community. We continue to value the relationships built over time in the neighborhood, and look forward to a strong continued partnership.