Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Time flies - it seems like just yesterday that the AVID programs began its Boise District run at Fairmont Junior High School, with a small group of seventh graders who were recruited to take part in a brand new program that encouraged habits for successful entry into and completion of post-secondary degrees.

For those who are not familiar with AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), it began in San Diego, California  in 1970, and has spread across the country. Participation in AVID requires that schools identify non-traditional students from the "forgotten middle" - kids have potential but who likely would not choose college without the benefit of the AVID program.

These students are recommended by their elementary school teachers, and enrolled in an AVID "elective" in seventh grade, along with enrollment in Accelerated Math and English classes. In the AVID elective class , they receive subject-matter tutoring, along with organization and study skills and a belief they will succeed in college.

In high school, AVID students visit college campuses around the northwest, apply for grants and scholarships, and typically enroll in one or more Advanced Placement classes. The expectation is that they will "go on" and be successful.

College-Going and Persistence

One of the things that the AVID program has done particularly well is to get students off to a good start in college. A far higher percentage of AVID students enroll the fall after high school graduation than enroll from the Boise District as a whole or statewide.

Insofar as the number of students who have persisted from among the multiple classes and are either still enrolled in college or have graduated, here are the data 

As you can see, a substantially higher percentage of  AVID college students are still enrolled as of the fall of 2018 than are enrolled from the District as a whole. Comparable statewide data were not available.

College Degrees, Locations, and Fields

Thus far, 76 AVID students have graduated from college with a certificate or a  2- or 4-year degree. These students have earned 52 Bachelor's degrees, 17 Associate's degrees, and 7 certificates.

AVID college grads have earned degrees and certificates from 20 different colleges and universities. 19 degrees have come from Boise State University, 14 from the University of Idaho, 11 from the College of Western Idaho, 7 fro the College of Idaho, and 5 from Idaho State University. Other colleges of note from which AVID grads have earned degrees include Baylor University, University of Southern California, Oregon State University, Pepperdine University, Northwest Nazarene University, University of Utah, Lewis-Clark State College (4), Whittier College, and Northern Arizona University.

The largest number of AVID college grads have received degrees and certificates in Arts and Humanities majors (24),  followed by STEM degrees (17), and degrees in Business (12).

We will continue to update our AVID students' progress on a regular basis Looking to report 100 college grads next year at this time!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


This is the time of year when we receive our National Student Clearinghouse report on the status of our high school grads from previous years. We can examine the progress of graduating classes, analyze trends with student majors, and look at "go-on" trends for our students.

Here's some information about the Class of 2018, the most recent high school graduating class from the Boise District.


Boise District Class of 2018 graduates are attending college in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 2/3 of our grads are attending school in Idaho. Of the rest, the highest percentage is attending in Utah (9%). 

The most popular individual colleges are Boise State (280 attendees, 29% of the total) , the College of Western Idaho (143, 15%), the University of Idaho (89, 9%), the University of Utah (55, 6%), Idaho State University (30, 3%) and Montana State University and the College of Idaho (19 each, 2%). 

By way of comparison, BSU, CWI, and ISU received about the same percentage of Boise District students from the class of 2018 as they did from the class of  2013. The University of Idaho, however, is down 3% compared with 2013, from 12% to 9%, and the University of Utah received 25 students (about 3% of the total) in 2013 and 55 (6%) this year. Overall, colleges in Utah received 6% of Boise District grads in 2013 and 9% in 2018.

Here are the most popular individual college attendance figures broken down by high school:

It's interesting to note that the enrollment to the University of Utah is almost entirely from Boise and Timberline, and that U of U enrollment from those schools now almost matches that of the University of Idaho.

In-State and Out-of-State Enrollment

Though almost 2/3 of Boise District students are enrolled at in-state schools, the percentages vary among District high schools.

As you can see, Boise is the only high school from which the majority of college-going students attend out-of-state schools. Four of five Borah grads attend in Idaho,  75% of Capital grads stay in the state, and just under 2/3 of Timberline students attend in the state, which is about the District average.

2-Year and 4-Year College Attendance

In  the high school graduating class of 2013, 78% of college-going students attended a 4-year college. In the class of 2018, the percentage attending 4-year colleges is...79%.  So not much has changed.  But the pattern varies among the five District high schools.

Boise and Timberline have the highest percentages of students attending 4-year colleges, but the strong majority of Borah and Capital students attend 4-year schools, as well.

Among the notable 4-year schools our students are attending are (by state):

Arizona - Arizona State 4, University of Arizona 7, Northern Arizona 4

California - California Institute of Technology, Pitzer College 2, Pomona College, Scripps College 2, UCLA, USC

Colorado  - Colorado School of Mines 5, Colorado State 3, University of Colorado 7, University of Denver 2

District of Columbia - George Washington 3

Florida - Embry-Riddle 3, University of Florida

Georgia - Emory University

Illinois - Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Illinois 2

Kansas - Kansas State, University of Kansas

Louisiana - LSU 2

Massachusetts - Emerson College, MIT 2, Northeastern 2, Wellesley

Minnesota- Macalester College 2, St. Olaf College 3, University of Minnesota

Montana - University of Montana 10

New Hampshire - Dartmouth College 3

Nevada - Nevada-Reno 2

New York - Columbia, Pratt Institute

Ohio - Bowling Green 2

Oklahoma - University of Oklahoma

Oregon - Lewis and Clark College 2, Oregon State 4, Pacific University, Portland State University 3, University of Oregon 3, University of Portland 4, Western Oregon University, Willamette University 2

Pennsylvania - University of Pennsylvania

Rhode Island - Brown University

Tennessee - Union University

Texas - Baylor, Texas Christian University 3,  Texas Tech

Utah - Utah State University 9, BYU 10, Westminster College 6, Weber State 2

Virginia - William and Mary, University of Virginia 2, Virginia Commonwealth 

Washington - Central Washington 2, Gonzaga 4, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, University of Washington 6, Washington State 6, Western Washington 5, Whitman  3, Whitworth 4

Friday, November 23, 2018


Fall kindergarten results from the new (IStation) Idaho Reading Indicator make clear (again) that Pre-kindergarten classes are needed in Idaho.

Across the state, 45% of kindergartners were judged to be at grade level on the new assessment, a bit lower than on the previous IRI, but still demonstrative of the need for preparation of entering kinders.

As it was with the "old" IRI, the new one is highly reflective of poverty. Though there are a few surprises, in general schools with higher poverty levels perform more poorly on the Fall kindergarten IRI than do those with lower levels of poverty. Put simply, more kids in those high-poverty schools lack the pre-reading skills necessary for "grade level" performance on pre-reading tasks.

About 3/4 of statewide schools with kindergartens were provided by the State Department of Education for analysis. Just over 100 schools had few enough kindergartners so as to require data masking of the number of "grade level" students. Even so, it was no surprise that particular high poverty schools had the lowest percentages of grade level students.

In the Treasure Valley, the lowest percentages of "grade level" kindergartners were at these schools:

Cynthia Mann, in northwest Boise, is a bit of a surprise, but it's not unusual to have a low-scoring kindergarten class once in a while. The other nine are not one bit unexpected.

All told, there were seventy schools with under a third of their students ready for kindergarten reading. These schools would be a great subject for an affordable pilot in Idaho, to see if high quality pre-k will make a difference for us.

Just by way of comparison, here are the ten highest-scoring kinder classes by school in the Treasure Valley. You hardly need the grade level info to predict which schools are on this list, as long as you have the free/reduced lunch percentages.

Schools like Highlands aren't on this list because they didn't have enough students in one or more categories (scores of 3, 2, or 1). 

As you might expect, most charters are at the top end of the scale, with high percentages of students at grade level.

There are two charters that show low levels of kindergarten readiness on the new IRI-  Blackfoot Community Charter, which has 52% free/reduced lunch and about 27% on grade level, and Heritage Community Charter in Caldwell, with 70% frl and 30% at grade level on the fall 2018 kindergarten IRI. Note from above  that I.T. Stoddard Elementary in Blackfoot  and a number of Caldwell schools have very low readiness levels, as well. Otherwise, the other 100 lowest grade level rates are at public schools with high levels of poverty.

The evidence is convincing to us. High quality pre-k programs at high poverty schools with low readiness rates will make a difference. We have shown it at Hawthorne and Whitney in the Boise District. Let's give it a try in a pilot!

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Here are some interesting stories from the education world.

Yesterday, voters in Arizona blocked the Governor's plan to expand the tax credit scheme he has supporting, voting 2 to 1 against Proposition 305. The measure was put on the ballot via a petition drive by Save Our Schools Arizona, a volunteer group similar to Parents and Teachers Together, the Idaho group that played a prominent role in overturning the Luna Laws in 2012.

From Derek Thompson, writing in The Atlantic comes a story about the decline of youth sports participation among lower income kids, and the relationship of the decline to club and travel leagues.

Thompson writes, quoting Tom Farrey, of Aspen's Sports and Society Program"  “Kids’ sports has seen an explosion of travel-team culture, where rich parents are writing a $3,000 check to get their kids on super teams from two counties, or two states, away...When these kids move to the travel team, you pull bodies out of the local town’s recreation league, and it sends a message [to those] who didn’t get onto that track that they don’t really have a future in the sport.” The result is a classist system: the travel-team talents and the local leftovers.

Like most superintendents, I cared a lot about test scores. Too much, it turns out, is a column written by former Camden, New Jersey Superintendent Paymon Rouhhanifard, published in Chalkbeat, in which he discusses his decision to remove school standardized test scores from the district's report card, against the wishes of his cabinet members. From the article:

"We are spending an inordinate amount of time on formative and interim assessments and test prep, because those are the behaviors we have incentivized. We are deprioritizing the sciences, the arts, and civic education, because we’ve placed most of our eggs in two baskets. We are implicitly encouraging schools to serve fewer English language learners and students with an IEP. We are spending less time on actual instruction, because that’s the system we’ve created."
Also from Chalkbeat is In most U.S. cities, neighborhoods have grown more integrated. Their schools haven’t, by Matt Barnum, in which the author details the results of a study of neighborhood and school integration segregation trends by Ryan Coughlan. The article includes a chart in which you can see the trends for 100 of the largest cities in America (Boise is not included).

And a couple of fascinating articles that are not directly tied to education:

Why the Housing Market Is Slumping Despite a Booming Economy, by Neil Irwin writing for The Upshot, shows how accelerating home prices have resulted in a slowing of the market nationwide.

"There is precedent for this, and it isn’t a happy one. In the last housing boom, new home sales peaked in July 2005, and home prices didn’t start declining until May 2006. It didn’t start to hurt the overall economy until December 2007, when the damage had spread through an overleveraged global financial system.

But that doesn’t mean this episode has to end in tears. Home prices are not nearly as out of line with incomes as they were then; speculative activity hasn’t been nearly as frothy; and consumer debt levels are considerably more measured."

Why California’s Wildfires Are So Destructive, In 5 Charts, is from 538 and was written by
By Christie Aschwanden, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Maggie Koerth-Baker and Ella Koeze. The five charts used in the article tell at least part of the statistical story behind the tragic fire season in California this year.

Friday, October 5, 2018


Making fair comparisons of achievement between schools is difficult work. It's important, though, to go through the steps of leveling the demographic playing field before comparing them.

Take this chart from an Idaho Ed News column written by Terry Ryan, BLUUM Executive Director:

As you can see, Ryan compares three districts (Boise, Nampa, and West Ada) with the state of Idaho's low income and ethnic data, and then throws the statewide charter school averages into the mix, treating charters as if they are one "school district".

There's a little sleight of hand going on here, though. So statewide charters have about the same percentage of low income students as Boise - so what. That's an irrelevant statistic. The charters that actually are located in Boise - ANSER, Sage, and the Village - all have low income percentages that are far lower than that of the Boise District. The same can be said for most charters located in West Ada and in Nampa. And, conveniently, percentages of Limited English and Special Education students, which are typically very low in charters, are completely left out of the mix.

In another post, Ryan touts academic performance of  charters compared with public schools across the state, as he argues for more flexibility and more money for charters:

Again, so what. Given the lower poverty rates and miniscule percentage of Limited English students (who are almost all poor) in Idaho charters statewide and the high correlation of the SBAC to poverty rates, they should achieve more highly. 

It's important to note here that only two (2) of Idaho's 51 charters (4%) have Limited English populations greater than 5%, while 128 of 346 (37%) public elementary schools have more than 5% LEP population. Further, 9 of 51 (18%) charters have >50% free/reduced lunch population, while 180 of 346 (52%) of public elementary schools have greater than 50% free/reduced lunch populations.

But there's another way to look at achievement that creates a more level playing field. In this method, we match schools by important demographic characteristics, and see how they compare on measures of  academic performance. Since all Idaho charters have elementary cohorts, we have focused on achievement and demographics at that level.

Schools with <20% Free/Reduced Lunch Count

Here's the first example of schools with like demographics:  

 As you may know, Seven Oaks Elementary is in Eagle and Roosevelt is in Northeast Boise off of Warm Springs. Falcon Ridge Charter is out on Ten Mile Road towards Kuna, and Syringa Mountain is the Waldorf school in Sun Valley - it was the first Waldorf School in Idaho, and Peace Valley on Federal Way is the second. Also, Falcon Ridge has about half the percentage of Special Ed kids as the other 3 schools.

As you can see, Roosevelt's achievement is quite good and Seven Oaks and Falcon Ridge Charter have achievement that's above average.

Math has always been a strength for Roosevelt, even when compared to schools with similar demographics; Falcon Ridge Charter and Seven Oaks have strong math performance, as well. 

Syringa Mountain Charter takes a different approach to academics and curriculum. You can see their curricular philosophy on their website, as well as information about the Waldorf pedagogy.

Schools with 20-30% Free/Reduced Lunch Count

Following are four comparisons of schools with similar demographics. Comparison one:

Rolling Hills Charter sits on the border of West Ada and Boise, on old Highway 55. Sorenson is a Magnet School for the arts in the Coeur d'Alene District. Silver Trail, as noted above, and Gate City is in Pocatello District #25.

This chart shows English Language Arts achievement on the SBAC, in terms of average Standard Score and Idaho percentile ranking for the demographically similar schools in the comparison. Sorenson could serve as a model for ELA achievement at all three grade levels.

The schools are more closely grouped for SBAC math achievement, but again Sorenson's scores are quite good, in the "high average" range.

Schools with 30-40% Free/Reduced Lunch Count

Here's one more comparison, for schools with free/reduced lunch percentages between 30 and 40.

Liberty Charter is one of Idaho's older charters, having been founded in 1999. Lena Whitmore, built in 1952 and named after a beloved teacher in the Moscow District,  is just outside the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow. McCall's Barbara Morgan Elementary is the namesake of the former teacher and astronaut. Pillar Falls Elementary is one of the two new schools in the fast-growing Twins Falls District, having opened in 2016. Note that Pillar Falls and Liberty Charter have about half the percentage of Special Ed students as Morgan and Whitmore.

All of these schools had "high average" (60th to 76th percentile) or "average" (41st to 59th percentile) achievement in ELA; Whitmore and Morgan had "above average" (77th to 88th percentile) achievement in 5th grade.

On  this slide, Liberty Charter's 5th grade math achievement was notable, clearing the 80th percentile and matching math achievement at Roosevelt, a schools with 1/3 the free/reduced lunch percentage. Otherwise, average and high average achievement was the norm.

Schools with >40%  Free/Reduced Lunch Count

It gets more and more difficult to find matching Charter schools when we are looking for schools with 40% FRL and above, especially when we are trying to match Limited English and SpEd, as well. However, here are a group of high poverty public and charter schools that fit each one of the characteristics.

Heritage Community Charter is in Caldwell, and Heritage Academy is in Jerome. Both charters opened in 2011. Willow Creek, one of the Nampa School District's newer schools, opened in 2005. Heyburn Elementary School in the Minidoka County District opened in 2009.

It's interesting to review results for schools with free/reduced lunch percentage as high as these schools have. The scores are typically not as high as for schools with lower FRL percentages (and no LEP population, typically). However, Heyburn's ELA scores in all 3 grades and Willow Creek's in 5th are worthy of comment. For Heyburn to achieve scores at the state average is impressive -this is a school worthy of recognition from the state of Idaho. Heritage Community Charter and Heritage Academy both showed solid performance in 5th grade. 

Again, in math, Heyburn and Willow Creek evidenced excellent performance for schools with their demographic characteristics. Heritage Community Charter showed solid performance in 3rd and 4th grade.

To be sure, there are other charters and public schools, that have excellent performance on the SBAC, IRI, or SAT, and these are just a sampling of the matches we might find. But, with schools that have 50% or higher FRL percentages, it's tough to find matching charters for the public schools, especially when we attempt to consider Limited English population as an important factor. The two charters in the slides above are the only two in the state with LEP percentages above 5%. 


By Boise District Data Analyst Becca Anderson

Earlier this year, LeBron James made headlines with the opening of his new school in Akron, Ohio, I Promise. The school is not a charter or private school, but actually part of Akron Public Schools, and James received praise for his support of public schools.

But here’s what’s even better: the LeBron James Family Foundation’s annual two million dollar investment cements the long-term funding of support services to students and families at the school, including a daily food and household items pantry, GED and job search support for parents, counseling and more. “I think the missing link in public education is that family wraparound support,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal in an interview with NPR.

Though SB Nation’s headline read, “How LeBron James' new public school really is the first of its kind,” these wrap-around services are something Boise Schools believes in, as well, and has embraced. The concept is called Community Schools, and in the 18-19 school year, Boise Schools has six Community Schools: Taft, Whittier, Garfield, Whitney, Morley Nelson, and Frank Church.

Community Schools supports strategic community partnerships designed to eliminate barriers to learning. As stated on the Boise Schools website, Community Schools’...

“integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and family engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.”

If we break down the barriers to school success, what happens to student achievement?

Nationally, the Community Schools model is promising. “The evidence base on well-implemented community schools and their component features provides a strong warrant for their potential contribution to school improvement,” a National Education Policy Center brief finds.

In a national study, high-implementing CIS (Communities in Schools) schools “outperformed non-CIS schools on measures of dropout and graduation rates. Studies demonstrated significant improvements… in dropout, retention, academics, attendance, and behavior measures.”

In Boise, we are tracking increased attendance, positive behavior outcomes, involvement in enrichment activities, and parent participation, among other data, to see the impact of Community Schools. Though it’s early, the commitment we’ve made to Community Schools complements our dedication to strong neighborhood schools and helps to ensure every student is ready to learn every day, and we expect it to pay dividends.

Watch a video about Boise Community Schools here.

Read more about LeBron James and Akron Public Schools here and read the master plan of I Promise here.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


As educators, we are not very good at telling our story. The Boise District provides for its students a comprehensive liberal arts education unrivaled in the state of Idaho, but we can no longer take for granted that our community fully understands the exceptional value of our neighborhood schools.

Over the past six months, the Boise District's Communications Committee has conducted a patron satisfaction survey and begun planning a Board-approved marketing campaign to get the word out about  the quality of district programs and personnel.

Idaho Education News, the Albertson Foundation-funded online education publication, ran an article last week about the campaign. Ironically, the Albertson Foundation's "20 in 10" initiative to provide 20,000 Idaho charter seats in 10 years, and the Foundation's multi-million dollar "Don't Fail Idaho" marketing campaign are two of the primary reasons why we need to get the word out about the quality of Boise's schools.


The first thing the committee did was to undertake a survey of district patrons, for which the District contracted with Patinkin and Associates, the same group that conducted the survey for the 2017 bond, which was paid for by Friends of Boise Schools. The purpose -- to find out how patrons feel about Boise's schools. Patinkin surveyed 500 patrons, with a margin of error of +/-4.4%.

Question 6 gauged how patrons felt about Boise's Schools:

We thought that the results on this question would come back favorable, and were pleased to see that a strong majority (almost matching the level of support for the 2017 bond) said "very well" or "pretty well" in answer to #6.

However, there were some patterns in the underlying data that gave us information about those on whom we might focus going forward. For instance:

The most interesting response to this question was "don't know".  Fully a quarter of survey respondents chose this option, providing us an opportunity to educate them about advantages of attending district schools, such as having smaller class sizes and well-qualified, experienced teachers.

And about those newcomers who might not know enough about our schools - who are they?

It's not surprising that people who have been here less than 5 years might think less well of the schools, perhaps depending on the locale from which they came. However, this is another group to whom we can reach out and communicate about our nationally ranked schools.

And finally, the survey provided information about the community groups we should have speak out as we go forward:


The Communications Committee is currently in the process of considering proposals from marketing firms. Once that decision is made, we will prepare for a launch of the marketing plan in January, 2019.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Recently, the Idaho Department of Education produced a number of lists of "low performing" and "high performing" schools, based on measures such as SBAC Proficiency and Growth. Kevin Richert focused in an Idaho Ed News article on the strong relationship between the "low performing" list and poverty, and we followed up with a post on the robust connection between the "top performers" list and poverty. Then today, Devin Bodkin reported  that Bingham Academy, an eastern Idaho charter, had been reported as "high performing" by the SDE and as a "low performer by the Idaho Charter Commission.

The SDE also published a list of high performing high schools which is based on the number of students taking dual credit and Advanced Placement coursework (Advanced Opportunities).  So that got us to thinking...

The State Board of Education has an awesome site  which features data about actual college-going and persistence rates of students from high schools around the state. Presumably, if  participation in Advanced Opportunities is predictive of college attendance and persistence, then the "high flyers" in Advanced Opportunities should be prominent in the SBOE data.

So we put together a scattergram using the average percentage of students from the classes of 2011 and 2012 who were still enrolled in college after 4 years (y-variable) and free/reduced lunch percentage (x-variable). That way, we could get a glimpse of the role played by poverty in college persistence, and see which of the identified schools were truly top performers. And using 4-year persistence gets us to the point where church missions are much less a factor in college-going,  since most students have returned from their travels.

Here's a chart showing where the state's list of "top performers" came out:

As you can see, several of the schools identified by the state actually have good success with college persistence - CDA Charter, Meridian Medical. Hagerman, Grace, Genesee, for example. But others, including Marsh Valley, Grangeville, Kamiah, and Taylors Crossing Charter, are actually low performers.  And a number of others, including Ririe, New Plymouth, Malad, Victory Charter, Salmon, Compass Charter, Oakley and Mountain View, are about average.

For Bingham Charter, Vision Charter, and Idaho Fine Arts Academy, no data is yet available about persistence.

So, who are the true "high performers" based on actual persistence of students?

This chart shows that, along with Genesee, CDA Charter, and Meridian Medical, other schools with low poverty percentages with high persistence levels include Eagle, Boise, Madison, Moscow, Timberline, Twin Falls and Liberty Charter. However, among schools with FRL percentages above 40%, high flyers include Skyline (Idaho Falls), Parma, Hagerman, Aberdeen, and Garden Valley. So poverty does play a role in college persistence, as we knew it would. But there are a few high performers with high levels of poverty from whom we can perhaps learn, like Parma, for instance, which has a highly successful scholarship program for its graduates.

Also interesting is that among the lowest persistence rates are several virtual charters, including Richard McKenna, Inspire Connections, and ISucceed. Fewer than a quarter of graduates from these charters persist as college-goers after 4 years.

Friday, August 24, 2018


Last week, Kevin Richert wrote an interesting article in Idaho Education News entitled "Performance and Poverty: Looking at the State's School Rankings". In the article, Richert noted that, among Idaho's 29 lowest SBAC performers, 23 had free/reduced lunch qualification percentages above that of the state of Idaho. while only 6 had percentages below the state average of about 47%. So most of the "low performers" were high poverty schools.

At the time Richert was putting together his article, we were researching the free/reduced status of the "highest performing" schools in Math and ELA as identified by the state of Idaho.  We looked at schools identified for high achievement on the SBAC as well as those identified for high growth on the test.

Highest Achieving Schools (K-8)

Forty-one of the forty-seven "highest achieving" schools (87%) in ELA had free/reduced lunch percentages below the state average of 47%, while three had percentages higher than the state average, and three others were so small that no free/reduced lunch data were available.  In Math, the story was much the same - 41 of 47 had FRL percentages lower than the state. In fact, 28 of the schools on the ELA list and 25 on the Math list have FRL percentages below 25.

Just a very few schools that made the list were high poverty schools. Among those in Math were Chief Joseph Elementary in West Ada, Rulon Ellis Elementary in Pocatello, Sunrise and Riverview Elementaries in Shelley, and Harold B. Lee Elementary in West Side. In ELA, the awardees with high percentages of FRL were Ellis, Northside Elementary in Sandpoint, and Thatcher Elementary in Grace. Interestingly, Chief Joseph is the only school in the list with an LEP population significantly higher than the state average. That's impressive.

We have known since the first year of SBAC testing that the exam results were highly correlated with poverty. So these results are not a surprise. However, we thought that the new "growth" measures would provide opportunities for schools from every demographic level to demonstrate.

Highest Growth Schools (K-8)

Unfortunately, what we found was that the demographics of high growth schools were remarkably similar to high achieving schools - in other words, very few had free/reduced percentages above the state average. 

In fact, in many cases the high achieving schools and the high growth schools were the same schools. Thirty of the 44 ELA high achieving schools were also high growth schools, and all but 2 of those schools had lower FRL percentages than the state. In math, 30 of the 47 high achievement schools were also high growth schools,  and only 1 of those schools had an FRL percentage higher than the state average.

Among the high FRL percentage schools that showed high ELA growth were Westside Elementary in Idaho Falls, Chief Joseph and Meridian in West Ada, Thatcher in Grace, and Hope in Sandpoint (Hope is a small elementary school). In Math, high FRL growth schools were Ellis in Pocatello, Meridian, Paris in Bear Lake, Willow Creek in Nampa, and Paul Elementary in Minidoka County.

What the Lists Reveal - and What We Can Learn

It's clear that the vast majority of schools that have high SBAC achievement and/or growth have relatively low percentages of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch, and that those with low achievement are primarily schools with high percentages of FRL students.  In most cases, then, the rankings/lists published by the State Department of Education just confirm that performance and growth on the SBAC are highly related to poverty. 

However, we do have a few examples of high poverty schools that have demonstrated excellent performance and growth, and we should be able to find out what they are doing to get past the barriers they face. The State Department might want to identify best practices and strategies from some of these schools that other schools might want to use. For our part, we will be contacting principals at a few of these high flyers to find the factors to which they attribute their growth and achievement.