Thursday, December 17, 2015


Last week the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Education News reported on a poll conducted by the Albertson's Foundation. Among other things, the survey results indicated that "58% of Idahoans with charter schools in their area believe charters offer a better education than regular public schools." Curiously, the majority of the survey questions have not been released to the public.

Foundation Executive Director Roger Quarles, said: “I don’t think it is just a perception problem,  I think it is a realistic, operational, performance problem."

But what do the data indicate? Do charters outperform "regular" public schools? Is it a "performance problem" as Quarles indicated? 

We took a look at the data for two charter schools in the Boise area - SAGE and the Village, comparing their performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test and Idaho Reading Indicator with that of demographically comparable Boise District elementary schools. Here are the results.


SAGE International School is located in southeast Boise on Parkcenter Boulevard. SAGE serves students in grades k-11, and will add 12th grade next year.. According to the most recent data from the State Department of Education, the percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch students at SAGE is 16.7% The most demographically similar elementary schools are Roosevelt (15.3%), Adams (14.7%), Longfellow(16.7%), and Collister (18.5%).

Here is more data about the demographics of the schools:

Then we looked at two measures of achievement among these schools - SBAC Achievement and IRI performance.

For the SBAC, we reviewed Math and English Language Arts at grades 3-6, since data were available to make grade by grade comparisons. First, SBAC math:

These data represent the percentage of students at each grade level scoring Proficient or Advanced on the SBAC Math test. The data for SAGE were taken directly from the State Department of Education's Assessment web page; for Boise District schools, they were either taken from the web page, or, when incomplete data were available there, from the District's SBAC database.

In this "apples to apples" comparison, we can see that there is not a "performance problem" in math.

How about in English Language Arts?

SAGE students did very well in Math and ELA on the SBAC, scoring well  above the state average in both. However, their performance is not better than demographically comparable Boise schools. No sign of the "performance problem" here.

And, finally, on the Idaho Reading Indicator, we examined Fall Kindergarten and Spring 3rd grade performance for the schools in the comparison. You'll see that, in each of the schools, the vast majority of students are prepared to read entering kindergarten, and that every school maintains or improves upon that high percentage through the Spring of 3rd grade.

The Village Charter 

The Village Charter operates in two facilities, one on Roosevelt Street and another on Orchard on the Boise Bench, and serves grades k-8. In the most recent State Department of Education data, The Village has a Free/Reduced lunch percentage of 28.9%. The most demographically comparable Boise schools are Amity, Liberty, and Maple Grove.

Here are the demographic characteristics for the four schools:

Grade-by-grade achievement data for the Village are partially redacted on the SBAC website because fewer than 10 students scored in particular categories on the test. However, the data for grades 3-8 combined are available. We thus have a comparison of the Village data for grades 3-8 and for grades 3-6 for Amity, Maple Grove, and Liberty. Not the greatest analytics, but it should give us an idea of relative achievement status at the schools.

Here's the information for the IRI:

The bottom line here is that we need to compare apples with apples in making achievement comparisons, and that, often, when we do so we find that the comparisons yield different results than we might have expected, considering the statement from Dr. Quarles.

As we go forward with assessment in the state of Idaho, we'll have chance to analyze growth in achievement from year to year as well as the status of school and district performance. Furthermore, we will continue to make appropriate comparisons and share them with our community.