Monday, October 19, 2015


The arrival of Limited English students in the Boise District in the past 30 years has a brought incredible cultural diversity to our schools and the community.  Students from around the world have contributed much to the academic, social, and extra-curricular environments of our schools.

Last week, ELL Consulting teacher Molly de Fuentealba put together some maps which provide a picture of the countries from which our Limited English students hail. Limited English students are those who have not yet demonstrated mastery of the written and spoken English language. This link will take you to the LEP map. If you click on the country label, the number of students speaking different native languages will appear.

Of the 1,756 current LEP students, 123 are from Iraq, 98 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 75 from Mexico, 64 from Thailand, 59 from Kenya, 44 from Nepal, and 41 from Tanzania.

Here's a screen shot showing numbers of LEP students from Africa:

Of the 328 Boise District LEP students from Africa, 292 hail from 7 countries; Somalia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most prominent native languages of these students are Somali, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda, though the total number of native languages among these students is 13.

Here's the portion of the map portraying the LEP numbers from Southeast Asia:

Of these 184 students, 162 have come from 4 countries; Nepal, India, Thailand, and Myanmar (formerly Burma). The 2 most prevalent native languages among these students are Nepali and Karen, but there are 18 total native languages among these students.

Recently, many students have come from the Middle East to Boise, most frequently from Iraq. As you can see in the screen shot, 123 of the 194 middle eastern students are from Iraq. The most prevalent native language of these students, is, as you would expect, Arabic.

Over half of our LEP students (829) were born in the United States. 

These LEP students' native languages total 42, with Spanish being the native language for 625 of the students. 

In total, our Limited English students come from 61 countries around the world, and their native languages total 74.  Additionally, 379 District students are classified as LEPx 1 or 2, meaning they are former LEP students who have been exited for 1 or 2 years, and 964 are FLEP, former LEP students who are fluent English speakers who've been out of the LEP program for more than 2 years.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


The Idaho State Board of Education recently passed a "Direct Admission" standard which provides incentive-based criteria for automatic admission to Idaho's higher-ed institutions for Idaho students. The Direct Admission policy is a step in the right direction in achieving the Board's goal that 60% of Idaho's high school graduates garner a 2 or 4 year degree or a certificate from an institution of higher education.

The Direct Admission policy also provides another reason for the Board to drop its requirement that students pass the SBAC or an alternate indicator of college readiness in order to graduate from high school. The Boise School Board recently submitted a resolution for the ISBA Conference in November that addresses this issue, along with talking points.

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, speaking in an Idaho Statesman article last week, indicated that  "this year’s sophomores should not have to take a high-stakes graduation test. She supports multiple measures of student ability, instead of wrapping measurement into a single test that is new to the state through Common Core." (article written by Bill Roberts, Statesman reporter).

Read more here:

Direct Admission

The State Board's Direct Admission policy, approved in August,  includes these criteria (page 19 of this document)::

  • "All students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher will be conditionally admitted to any of the state’s eight (8) public higher education institutions, regardless of the SAT score. 
  • For students with a GPA below 3.0, admission will be based on a multiple of their GPA and SAT score. Students with a multiple totaling 2835 or greater will be admitted to the state’s eight (8) public higher education institutions.
  •  An example is as follows: 
 GPA              SAT             Multiple 
 2.0                 1418            2835 
 2.7                 1050            2835 
 2.9                   990            2835

Students with a multiple below 2835 will be conditionally admitted to Idaho State University College of Technology and Lewis-Clark State College as part of their community college function, as well as Eastern Idaho Technical College and the three (3) community colleges."

The Direct Admission program has already been initiated, and students across the state who meet the criteria will receive letters of conditional admittance this fall for college entrance in 2016-17. The condition for full admittance is graduation from high school.

Direct Admission will forego the in-state public college admission process for over a third of Idaho's college-bound seniors. Though we'd like to see an increase in available scholarships for students who meet the criteria, we see Direct Admissions as a positive step toward achieving the Board's 60% goal.

SBAC Graduation Requirement

Unfortunately, under another current rule, a number of Idaho students, beginning with the class of 2018, will be eligible for Direct Admission, but will be taking remedial classes because they have not met the passing cut scores on the Math and Reading SBAC assessment and the Biology/Chemistry EOC.

Add that the other issues associated with the test-based graduation requirement, such as...

  • The SBAC is a "college readiness" test, not a basic skills test like the "old" ISAT was.
  • At least 70% of students who took the SBAC in 2014-15 would have fallen short of the cut scores required to meet the requirement, compared to 10-15% on the "old" ISAT.
  • In Boise, 35 sophomores who had passed an AP test failed to meet the cut score to pass the SBAC.
  • Of the 244 Boise sophomores who passed a Professional-Technical course in 2014-15, fewer than 20% met the cut score requirement of the graduation requirement.
    • Of the 82 students who passed the Heavy Duty Diesel course, 10 met the SBAC graduation criteria.
    • Of the 24 enrolled in Welding, 4 met the criteria
...and you have, in our opinion, a convincing rationale for dropping passage of the SBAC as a high school graduation requirement.

Some have said that, since students can meet the requirement by taking and passing a remedial course offered by the district, the test-based graduation requirement is not a big deal. Actually, it is, for these reasons:

  • Sophomores who fail to meet the SBAC cut scores this spring will be required to take the test again as juniors, despite the fact that many will have taken and passed AP, Dual Credit, and Professional-Technical classes in the meantime, thus garnering college credit or work-related experience while they are at risk for high school graduation.
  • In their senior year, those who fail the SBAC for a second time will take a "college readiness" class offered by the district, thereby jeopardizing their ability to take AP, Dual Credit, or Professional-Technical classes which will enhance their college and career readiness.
Direct Admission represents the "carrot" approach to motivating students to attend college, and it makes sense to us because of the reduced paperwork in and simplicity of the plan. The test-based high school graduation requirement? It's the "stick" approach, and it will send mixed messages to students across the state. Let's get rid of it.