Saturday, December 31, 2016


Across the state of Idaho, AP participation and exams are showing growth. But which district and high schools are providing the opportunity for rigor through AP to their students?

There are several ways to look at the data. Here is a chart showing student exam participation in Idaho districts with more than 50 students taking 1 or more exams.

Well, not really a fair comparison. Boise and West Ada have the largest participation rates, but the two are the largest districts in the state, as well. Also, Coeur d'Alene's data includes Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy's students, which inflates the total for the district.

It's interesting to look at growth in student AP exam participation in examining the effort districts are making to improve their AP programs, no matter how large or small the district or participation, no matter how large or small the numbers (as long as they are greater than 50).

The Nampa District appears to be making a concerted effort to grow its AP program, with most of the increase coming at Columbia and Skyview High Schools. Blaine County, Madison, and Twin Falls also have seen increases in participation of over 30%.

Next,  let's have a look at student participation and exams taken by high school, again using the 50 student bar.

The four comprehensive Boise high schools lead the way, followed by Vallivue, Rocky Mountain (West Ada), Centennial (West Ada), Century (Pocatello)  and Blaine County.

The picture is not much different when we look at exams taken by high school.

Again, though, these are not really fair comparisons, since most of the high schools in the chart are large. 

So we took the student participation numbers at the high schools we examined and compared them with the number of juniors and seniors enrolled in 2016, and expressed the resulting fraction as a percentage. Here's what the comparison revealed:

This chart more fairly expresses the AP participation by school. Note that Coeur d'Alene Charter, McCall-Donnelly, and Wood River (Blaine County) are now in the upper reaches of the chart. What the comparison misses is that a number of sophomores, and a few 9th graders, take AP exams. However, it does get at the issue of school size.

We realize that CDA Charter is a special case - the school serves a select group of students who are looking for rigorous curricula, and, from 7th to 12th grade, we see the school's enrollment drop substantially. Still, when we examined the array of AP courses offered at the school, we were impressed. We counted 13 Advanced Placement courses taught in the school.

McCall-Donnelly and Blaine County offer multiple AP courses, as well, proving that relatively small schools can offer an impressive array of opportunities. 

Of course, in the Boise District, students can choose from among 25 Advanced Placement offerings, regardless of the high school they attend. In the Vallivue District, there are 17 offerings, and students attending Ridgevue (the district's new high school) and Vallivue High School have equivalent opportunities for rigor.

In many high schools across the state, there are no Advanced Placement offerings. While dual credit opportunities typically abound in these districts, students cannot take the "gold standard" offerings provided in other districts, except through online opportunities from the Idaho Digital Learning Academy and others. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016


There was an interesting op-ed in the Idaho Statesman the other day, from a former Advanced Placement teacher, asserting that dual credit classes are no substitute for college classes. For many Boise District alumni who have benefited from the credits they have earned from AP tests, that will come as a surprise, especially since they have earned credit for core classes at prestigious universities and colleges, and started college as second semester freshman or even as sophomores. AND they will tell you they felt well-prepared for the subsequent courses they took.

AP courses are, of course, not intended to satisfy advanced college coursework requirements in major areas. They are, instead, meant to allow students to get a head start on their college careers by passing exams that certify their competence in content knowledge in core college academic courses.

The reason we consider Advanced Placement to be the "gold standard" among college preparation programs is that students must take and pass rigorous exams which serve as a national benchmark accepted by the vast majority of colleges nationwide. About 2/3 of exams from the Boise District were judged to meet that standard in 2016. The overall Idaho percentage was 63% (60% without Boise. The national 2016 "passing" percentage was 58%.

Most students do not use AP course credit to graduate early from college. Instead, they take on double majors, add a minor area, or use the flexibility afforded by the credits they have earned to travel abroad or to ease the load as they participate in activities and sports in college.

Idaho Student AP Participation Has Grown Dramatically

Participation in Idaho's AP testing program has increased steadily since 1995, and is now almost 6 times what it was 21 years ago. These are students who took one or more exams in the given year's AP testing.

However, the Boise District's AP participation as a percentage of the statewide student count has also increased:

So when we take out Boise's numbers, we get an idea of what's happened with AP participation across the state of Idaho outside of Boise. The increase is still impressive, with over 4 times as many students participating in the program as did in 1995.

The Number of Idaho Exams has Increased Substantially, as Well

Since 1995, the number of AP exams taken in the state of Idaho has increased by over 600%.

The percentage of exams taken by Boise students steadily increased for a number of years, and has been stable since 2010. In 2016, the percentage of exams taken by Boise students was 35%. Interestingly, among 2016 Boise District seniors, just under 10% had taken 10 or more exams during their high schools careers, and almost half took 5 or more.

Here is the increase in Idaho exams when the data are considered without the Boise District. The rate of increase without Boise is almost as high as it is when Boise's exams are included - a sign of a healthy, growing program around the state.

Next on the blog - which districts and high schools lead the way in AP, and who is making great progress?

Monday, December 19, 2016


Boise District students took 35% of the statewide Advanced Placement tests in 2016, setting a new high of just less than 4000 exams. District students represent about 9% of the statewide student population.

In the past twenty years, the exam total has grown from just over 500 to 3963, growth of almost 800%.

Student participation has increased in similar fashion, as well. In 1995, 203 students took at least one Advanced Placement exam. In 2016, 1992 students did so. 30% of the statewide student participation came from the Boise District.

The District Advanced Placement program began at Boise High School in 1980, under the leadership of Principal Jack Craven. It has since spread across the District to all 4 comprehensive high schools. Boise High still has the highest participation and gives the most exams (13% of the state total in 2016).

Though Boise High had the highest percentage of its students taking an AP exam in 2016 (44%), Timberline has made great gains - 40% of the student population took at least one exam in 2016. Borah and Capital were at 31% and 29%, respectively, in 2016.

It's interesting to note that the 3 most popular AP courses (and tests) satisfy graduation requirements in the Boise District and for the state. For example, AP English Language satisfies the junior English requirement, AP English Literature the senior English requirement, and AP US History the junior Social Studies requirement. AP Calculus AB satisfies one of the three required math courses, as well. The true electives on the "most popular" list are AP World History, AP Psychology, and AP Human Geography. 

In those three courses, Boise students take a much higher percentage of statewide AP exams. In World History, 51% of the state's exams were taken by Boise students, in Psychology 66%, and in Human Geography, 86%.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


McREL International, a Denver-based non-profit which has developed its own teacher evaluation system, was hired by the Idaho Department of Education to review Idaho's progress in implementing its evaluation system, which is based on the Charlotte Danielson evaluation model.

McREL was asked to audit 225 randomly selected teacher evaluations from across the state (36 of the 225 came from Boise, which has about 12% of the state's teachers). A State Department of Education committee, the Principal Evaluation Review Committee, provided the questions that McREL was to use in preparing its report.

Idaho Education News greeted the publication of the audit data with the headline "Audit Finds 99% of Teacher Evaluations were Inaccurate or Incomplete". Idaho Board of Education President Emma Atchley said soon after the publication of the article, “The audit raises serious concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process conducted during the 2014-2015 school year.” 

But did it? Let's take a look at the questions provided by the committee and used by the auditors and how they relate to Idaho Code and practice.

Question 1 - What are the components that were on the Individual Professional Learning Plan (IPLP)?

The audited evaluations were from the 2014-15 school year. The IPLP was not required that year; it came into effect in 2015-16. No wonder a large number of evaluations missed the mark in this area.

Question 2 - Does the professional practice portion include all 22 components of the Charlotte Danielson Framework (2nd ed.)?

State Board  rule requires that “each district evaluation model shall be aligned to state minimum standards that are based on Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching Second Edition domains and components of instruction. The rule, by design, does not require districts to adopt verbatim the Danielson Framework domains and components as was implied in the questions given to McREL for the evaluation.

For example, the Bonneville District uses a different evaluation system which is aligned the the Danielson system, but did not satisfy the criteria in the question, and is not required to. The Bonneville system was approved by the Idaho Department of Education.

Question 3 - Record the levels of performance for each component (1, 2, 3 or 4)

Again, State Board rule requires districts to establish a “rating system with a minimum of three (3) rankings (not 4) used to differentiate performance of teachers and pupil personnel certificate holders including: Unsatisfactory being equal to “1”; Basic being equal to “2”; and Proficient being equal to “3”. For example, Boise uses 3 categories, as is required. Even though every one of Boise's evals met State Board rule, they would all have missed the mark on this question.

Question 4 -What are the dates of the two documented observations?

Idaho teacher evaluations must include a minimum of two documented observations, one of which shall be completed prior to January 1 of each year. In the Boise School District, we require our principals to complete, at a minimum, one formal observation prior to January 1st in compliance with the law as well as a second formal observation that becomes incorporated into the final formal evaluation. The dates may not have been noted on the evaluation but in every case two observations or more were made.

Further, in two cases, the audit identified employees who did not have an evaluation because they were on leave during the second semester of the school year, one for family leave and the other for medical reasons.  However, the auditors did not ask for the reasons for missing evaluations.

Question 5 - Which additional measure(s) was included to inform professional

  • Student Input
  • Parent Input
  • Portfolio
  • None

The Boise District uses parent input to satisfy this State Board required element.

Question 6 - Which measures were used for student achievement?

The data elements provided to McREL for this review come from the options to measure
student achievement under the Career Ladder which was not part of the state law and was not required until 2015­-2016 with the introduction of the Career Ladder Legislation that was established during the 2015 Legislative Session. In 2014­-2015, districts had to include ISAT data in the evaluation as well as one or more of multiple objective measures of growth in student achievement, which could be determined by the board of trustees. Districts could choose for the ISAT to count for 1% up to 32% of the 33% of the evaluation that was to be
based on student achievement.

Additionally, the rule states that “growth in student achievement may be considered as an optional measure for all other school based and district based staff, as determined by the local board of trustees.”

As a result of this provision, any evaluations that were reviewed by McREL that were not instructional staff, may not have had student achievement data included because it did not have to be included in accordance with State Board rule. This was the case for two evaluations that were randomly selected as part of the Boise School District sampling.

Question 7 - What is the summative rating?

Question 8 - Does the summative rating include combining professional practice (67%) and student achievement (33%) 

The Boise School District requires a separate rating for the 33% of the
evaluation that is based on growth in student achievement and an overall
summative rating that includes combining the 67% and 33%.

Question 9 - What is the date of the summative evaluation?

Question 10 - Was it completed by May 1st?

Three (3) 2014-2015 Boise District audited evaluations were submitted between May and June 1. For 2015-16, that submittal date was changed by the legislature to June 1 because May 1 was deemed too early.

Question 11 - Is there a written evaluation policy?

The State Department of Education did not ask for the District's policy, or we would have provided it.

In summary, McREL was asked in the 2014-15 audit to:

  • conduct analyses of elements not required by law or under Idaho Code
  • analyze adherence to deadlines that had already been determined unreasonable by the legislature
  • summarize without asking for explanation:
    • observations required by law and by local policy
    • missing evaluations that may have been due to unforeseen circumstances
In order for legislators to have an understanding of the errors inherent to the audit process as they make decisions about the Career Ladder, it makes sense that the State Department of Education confer with districts involved in the audit as soon as possible. We believe we have done a thorough job of outlining the flaws of the audit. Now is the time to set it right.


It's now been a decade since the Boise District initiated the AVID program at Fairmont Junior High School. All of the District's secondary schools now have AVID programs, and 1195 students are currently taking AVID coursework. That's a far cry from year 1, when 85 Fairmont students formed the first AVID classes.

Here's a slide which describes in brief the components of the AVID program:

All four of our comprehensive high schools have had students graduate from the District with AVID training, and we have some interesting new statistics about those grads.

Of the 424 AVID high school graduates:

187 graduated from Capital (first AVID graduating class 2010-11)
167 graduated from Borah (first AVID graduating class 2011-12)
  45 graduated from Boise (first AVID graduating class 2012-13)
  25 graduated from Timberline (first AVID graduating class 2013-14)

In total, 326 attended college the fall after high school graduation (77%). By contrast, the class of 2015 Direct Attendance percentage for the State of Idaho was 46%. For the Boise District as a whole, it was 61%.

Of the 424 AVID high school graduates:

19 have graduated from college
15 from a 4-year college
  4 from a 2-year college
254 are still enrolled in college
(That's 64% who have graduated or are still enrolled)

Among the AVID college grads, 13 of the 19 came from the College of Idaho (4), Boise Sate University (3), the University of Idaho (3), and Idaho State University (3). The largest number of majors have been in business fields (accounting, marketing, etc.) and in Biology.

This rate is a good indicator of the persistence of students graduating from the District's AVID program and continuing on to college. Each year, we'll continue to provide reports on AVID college "Go On"" rates and graduation.