Wednesday, August 8, 2018


2018 Advanced Placement testing took place in May, and the results were returned from the College Board in July. Here is a summary of the results for the Boise School District.

Exams and Participants

The number of exams taken by District students reached another all-time high, at 4,806. Boise High School again led the way with 1,688 exams taken, but Timberline's total surged to 1,381, with approximately 200 fewer students enrolled than Boise.

The number of participants in AP testing has also grown dramatically over the years, as the District has provided more opportunities and taken down barriers to participation.

In fact, District high schools have made remarkable progress in providing access to coursework and encouragement to take AP exams. Though Advanced Opportunities funds have certainly helped and contributed to the rapid growth of participants and exams recently, the District's efforts to expand access began well before significant funds became available.

Typically, as the percentage of student participation In Advanced Placement testing grows in a school or a district, the passing percentage (scores of "3" and above) declines. In Boise, our goal has been to provide access to rigorous coursework to as many students as possible. knowing that even taking an Advanced Placement test can contribute to success in post-secondary studies, since students have an understanding of the rigor at the next level.

"A 2013 study found that students who took one or more AP Exams, regardless of what score was earned, were more likely to graduate from college in four years compared to non-AP

You can see the pattern in Boise - we have been gratified that so many students who might not have participated in the past are now jumping in and taking those difficult AP exams. By way of reference, Idaho's passing percentage in 2017 was 59%  (57% without Boise) and the national percentage was 57%.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Here are a few articles of interest from the past month or so on the web.

Gates' Latest Education Project

"Here's How Not to Improve Public Schools" is an op-ed by Cathy O'Neil published in Bloomberg.  In the op-ed, O'Neil recounts the failures of Bill Gates' latest education project, Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, which was designed to use Value-Added Measurement to reward good teachers and get rid of bad ones. Gates spent $575 million on the project.

We have repeatedly railed against VAM in this blog, but O'Neil writes of how Gates' experiment actually caused harm: 

"The approach that the Gates program epitomizes has actually done damage. It has unfairly ruined careers, driving teachers out of the profession amid a nationwide shortage."

A number of opinion pieces have recently been published about the failed Gates experiment. Here is another  from  the Stamford, Connecticut Advocate, and here's a link to the actual study evaluating the Gates experiment, conducted by the Rand Corporation.

Workers' Share of Growth Erodes

Patricia Cohen writes "Paychecks Lag as Profits Soar, and Prices Erode Wage Gains" in the Upshot, the New York Times Magazine. Cohen details the stagnation in worker pay and the increase in corporate profits, especially since the end of the Great Recession.

"Seven things research reveals — and doesn’t — about Advanced Placement" is from Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog.  If you have not exceeded your monthly quota you should be able to read the embedded guest article by Suneal Kolluri, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California. Kolluri has done a thorough review of the  research surrounding A.P., and has provided a summary in this article.

Here is one of Kolluri's summary findings:

"Access to Advanced Placement courses in high schools has been expanding, probably far more than the founders of the program could have imagined. The College Board’s efforts to encourage more low-income students and students of color to engage with the program have made meaningful inroads to diversifying Advanced Placement. A program initially confined to elite boarding schools now serves students from diverse communities across the United States. The past decades have seen particularly accelerated expansion of AP. While in 1994 only 14.9 percent of all U.S. high school students graduated with AP credit, by 2013 that number had risen to over 39 percent."

Though for most the summary will be sufficient, you can access the full research study here.

And finally, it's hard to resist providing a link to an article from Curmudgucation, our favorite blog. Peter Greene, an English teacher from Pennsylvania, has retired, but his blog lives on, and he has more time to write, it seems!

In "Another Merit Pay Failure", Greene writes about an Arizona charter school's effort to deny teachers performance pay and the battle that ensued. He also restates his argument that merit pay is simply not appropriate in education.

Monday, July 9, 2018

2017 COLLEGE GRADS (Part 3)

Here is the final post in this 3-part series about the Boise District alums who graduated from college in 2017. In this post, we are interested in what may or may not have changed with respect to our Engineering graduates.

Engineering Grads by Major Area

As we indicated in Part 2, the number of Computer Science/Engineering grads has skyrocketed since we last did this comparison. In fact, as you can see below, CS/E grads make up almost 40% of engineering grads compared with 17% in the last analysis.

It's also interesting to note that 61% of engineering graduates were in two areas, Computer Science/Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering Grads by College/Area

In our analysis of engineering grads the classes of 2010-14, we found that 54% of graduates came from in-state colleges, with the University of Idaho leading the way with 31% of the degree-earners.

In 2017, 49% of the grads came from in-state, but Boise State has surged ahead in terms of the number and percentage of in-state graduates. Interestingly, much of the change came in the area of Computer Science/Engineering, where BSU graduated 7 students and Idaho had only 2 graduates. Also of note is the fact that Utah and Utah State combined graduated 7 engineering students in 2017.

Where are They Working?

It's not difficult to find most of the engineering grads - they have landed in good jobs just a year after graduating from college with a Bachelor's degree. You can see from the chart above, though, that the pattern we found in 2014 still persists. If our kids go to school out of state, they tend to stay in the community in which their college is located. If they attend Boise State or Idaho, most remain in Idaho for work. One encouraging data point is that BSU is attracting more engineering/computer science students, and almost all of them are employed here in Idaho, tipping the balance slightly toward in-state employment.

Monday, June 25, 2018

2017 COLLEGE GRADS (Part 2)

In part 1 of this post, we wrote about the general characteristics of the 574 Boise District graduates who matriculated from college in 2017. In part 2, we will look at the majors of those who earned a BS/BA degree in 2017.

For comparative purposes, we will use the results of an analysis done in 2014 of college grads from the high school classes of 2007-2010, and compare that info with that of 2017 graduates.

Major Areas

Nearly a third of 2017 Boise Schools BS/BA degree earners graduated with a degree in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). Social Science and Business degrees were a distant second and third, respectively.

Note in the chart below that STEM degrees as a percentage of the total have grown since we last measured the distribution back in 2014, from just over 26% to over 32%. Business majors have also increased, but Social Science majors decreased substantially between 2014 and 2017.

Specific Majors

So what has caused the change?  Why have STEM degrees increased so much in popularity? We can see the answer when we look at the top individual majors compared to 2014:

As you can see, Computer Engineering/Science degrees were among the most popular among 2017 college grads, after coming in at 26th among majors for the classes of 2007-2010. The 23 CS grads was within one of the total from the four classes we examined just a few years ago!

Clearly, the efforts of the Idaho Technology Council, and others in increasing Idaho students' exposure to computer science are paying dividends, as more and more students are gravitating toward the area.

But are they finding jobs? That is one topic of part 3 of our examination of 2017 Boise District college grads.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Here's part 1 of a 3-part post about Boise District alumni who matriculated from a college or university in 2017 with a certificate, AA/AS, or a BA/BS degree. In this post, we'll look at general demographic information about the 674 2017 graduates. 


The vast majority of 2017 college grads earned Bachelor's degrees:

A few graduates earned an Associate's degree or a Certificate on the way to a Bachelor's degree. We counted only the Bachelor's degree in those cases.


The largest percentage of degrees and certificates were earned by Boise High graduates, which makes sense in that Boise has had the largest number of graduates for the past few years, and a higher number of students with the financial wherewithal to continue their academic pursuits. Timberline has had the smallest number of high school graduates, but that is likely to change in the near future with the growth in southeast Boise.


As you might expect, the large majority of students (63%) graduated from Idaho colleges and universities. However, 9% of degrees were earned from colleges in the state of Utah, continuing the trend of Boise students' attendance in the Beehive State.

Here's the data for 2017 graduates by college:

Of course, Boise State, Idaho, and CWI had the largest number of graduates. The College of Idaho and Idaho State are next in line with 27 and 26 degrees. BYU-Idaho and the three Utah schools are next in line, and no other colleges had more than 10 graduates. However, four or more Boise students graduated from a number of colleges:

Montana State University - 8, Lewis-Clark State College - 6,Western Washington University- 6, California Polytechnic University - 6, Westminster College (Utah) - 5, Arizona State University - 4, Colorado State University - 4, Northwest Nazarene University - 4, Oregon State University - 4, Seattle University - 4, University of Oregon - 4, Whitman College (WA) - 4.

All told, Boise District alumni graduated from colleges and universities in 35 states and the District of Columbia (Georgetown) in 2017.

Friday, June 8, 2018


There's a lot to catch up on in education, economics, and demographic info from around the web. Here are some of the articles that caught our eye in the past few weeks.

Teacher Uprisings Explained

The Numbers that Explain Why Teachers are in Revolt, by Robert Gebeloff, comes from the NY Times' Upshot Research Blog. In the article uses data to show how funding practices across the country have led to the statewide teacher job actions in a number of states. 

Gebeloff writes: "But while the protests are spreading this year, the underlying conflict between public school employees and policymakers has roots in decisions made during the last recession, when  states and local districts short of cash curtailed education spending for the first time in decades."

Can't They Just Move?

In another Upshot article, Emily Badger explains why many people who struggle financially don't just up and move to another community where rent is more affordable. Here's a selection from her article, "Why Don’t People Who Can’t Afford Housing Just Move Where It’s Cheaper?" :

"People who struggle financially often have valuable social networks — family to help with child care, acquaintances who know of jobs. The prospect of dropping into, say, Oklahoma or Georgia would mean doing without the good income and the social support. Those intangible connections that keep people in places with bad economies also keep people in booming regions where the rent is too high."

Still More Bad News About Vouchers

The newest evaluation of a voucher program comes from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Evaluation in the form of an analysis of the Washington, D.C. voucher program (called the Opportunity Scholarship Program). The federally funded program provided scholarships for low-income students to attend a private school.

Though the research team, headed by Mark Dynarski, found that voucher recipients and their parents had a positive perception of school safety after two years in the program, they also found that:

"The OSP had a statistically significant negative impact on mathematics achievement after
two years. Mathematics scores were lower for students two years after they applied to the OSP (by 8.0 percentile points for students offered a scholarship and 10.0 percentile points for students who used their scholarship), compared with students who applied but were not selected for the scholarship. Reading scores were lower (by 3.0 and 3.8 percentile points, respectively) but the differences were not statistically significant..."

Demographic Changes by County

Kim Parker writes in the Pew Research Center blog about demographic changes in the United States, and provides an interactive map  that allows you to search for counties across the country and view comparative data. There's also an excellent article that summarizes the changes. From the article:

A Forgotten but Important Desegregation Case

In the Atlantic, William Stancil writes about Green v. New Kent County, the lawsuit that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and established the basis for many of the most famous busing conflicts of the 1970's. His article, entitled The Radical Supreme Court Decision That America Forgot provides an interesting look at the decision and its ramifications.

Friday, May 18, 2018


Last month, several Boise School District Trustees attended the Boise Chamber of Commerce 2018 Leadership Conference in Sun Valley. A couple of Board members went to a presentation by Boise State University personnel in which they showcased their latest survey (December 2017, 1000 respondents, +-3.1% error margin) results. Here's one of the slides the BSU folks used with respect to preparation:

Wow, not good at all. 29.3% of statewide respondents categorized college preparation efforts as "excellent" or "good". The percentage of "excellent/good" responses for the Boise Metro area was even lower, at 29.0%.

Interestingly, BSU's survey used "fair" as a category, and fully 39% of respondents chose that category for the college prep question. What does "fair" mean to you? Decent? Okay? We aren't sure it's an appropriate category, or that it should be grouped with "poor". But maybe that's just splitting hairs.

However, in the run-up to the 2016 bond measure, we did some polling (300 parents + 300 voters, +- 5.6% margin of error)) in the community with the help of a professional polling group. When they asked a similar question, the results looked very different:

So in this poll the choices are better differentiated. "Very well" was the top choice, "Pretty well" was next. And the two choices associated with "dissatisfaction" were "not too well" and "not at all well".

When the choice of "don't know" is included in the data, 68% of those surveyed chose one of the two "positive" choice. When we factored out the "don't know" responses, the percentage choosing the two "positive" choices rose to 85%.

Admittedly, this poll question asks about "preparing students for a career", so it's a bit less focused than the BSU question on furthering their education". However the difference in response patterns is stark.

However, it's tough to know which of the polls was a more accurate reflection of patron/citizen feeling, since the results differed so dramatically. Perhaps the wisest course, especially considering the accuracy (or lack thereof) of recent state and national polls is to regard polling data with healthy skepticism!