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.