Thursday, December 17, 2015


Last week the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Education News reported on a poll conducted by the Albertson's Foundation. Among other things, the survey results indicated that "58% of Idahoans with charter schools in their area believe charters offer a better education than regular public schools." Curiously, the majority of the survey questions have not been released to the public.

Foundation Executive Director Roger Quarles, said: “I don’t think it is just a perception problem,  I think it is a realistic, operational, performance problem."

But what do the data indicate? Do charters outperform "regular" public schools? Is it a "performance problem" as Quarles indicated? 

We took a look at the data for two charter schools in the Boise area - SAGE and the Village, comparing their performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test and Idaho Reading Indicator with that of demographically comparable Boise District elementary schools. Here are the results.


SAGE International School is located in southeast Boise on Parkcenter Boulevard. SAGE serves students in grades k-11, and will add 12th grade next year.. According to the most recent data from the State Department of Education, the percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch students at SAGE is 16.7% The most demographically similar elementary schools are Roosevelt (15.3%), Adams (14.7%), Longfellow(16.7%), and Collister (18.5%).

Here is more data about the demographics of the schools:

Then we looked at two measures of achievement among these schools - SBAC Achievement and IRI performance.

For the SBAC, we reviewed Math and English Language Arts at grades 3-6, since data were available to make grade by grade comparisons. First, SBAC math:

These data represent the percentage of students at each grade level scoring Proficient or Advanced on the SBAC Math test. The data for SAGE were taken directly from the State Department of Education's Assessment web page; for Boise District schools, they were either taken from the web page, or, when incomplete data were available there, from the District's SBAC database.

In this "apples to apples" comparison, we can see that there is not a "performance problem" in math.

How about in English Language Arts?

SAGE students did very well in Math and ELA on the SBAC, scoring well  above the state average in both. However, their performance is not better than demographically comparable Boise schools. No sign of the "performance problem" here.

And, finally, on the Idaho Reading Indicator, we examined Fall Kindergarten and Spring 3rd grade performance for the schools in the comparison. You'll see that, in each of the schools, the vast majority of students are prepared to read entering kindergarten, and that every school maintains or improves upon that high percentage through the Spring of 3rd grade.

The Village Charter 

The Village Charter operates in two facilities, one on Roosevelt Street and another on Orchard on the Boise Bench, and serves grades k-8. In the most recent State Department of Education data, The Village has a Free/Reduced lunch percentage of 28.9%. The most demographically comparable Boise schools are Amity, Liberty, and Maple Grove.

Here are the demographic characteristics for the four schools:

Grade-by-grade achievement data for the Village are partially redacted on the SBAC website because fewer than 10 students scored in particular categories on the test. However, the data for grades 3-8 combined are available. We thus have a comparison of the Village data for grades 3-8 and for grades 3-6 for Amity, Maple Grove, and Liberty. Not the greatest analytics, but it should give us an idea of relative achievement status at the schools.

Here's the information for the IRI:

The bottom line here is that we need to compare apples with apples in making achievement comparisons, and that, often, when we do so we find that the comparisons yield different results than we might have expected, considering the statement from Dr. Quarles.

As we go forward with assessment in the state of Idaho, we'll have chance to analyze growth in achievement from year to year as well as the status of school and district performance. Furthermore, we will continue to make appropriate comparisons and share them with our community.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Here are a few noteworthy stories from last month.

Hawthorne and Whitney Pre-K Up and Running!

Pre-kindergarten classes at Whitney and Hawthorne Elementary Schools began in November, with 60 students enrolled in this collaborative pilot project between the Boise School District and the City of Boise.

The teachers for the Pre-k program are Grace Ruddy, who teaches morning and afternoon sessions at Hawthorne, and Shelia Dengler-Shaw, who teaches a section at Whitney.

We are looking forward to seeing the progress our Pre-k students make this year, and into the future, and will monitor their reading readiness at regular intervals. It's exciting to once again have a Pre-k program in the Boise District!

Alphabet practice at Hawthorne

Hawthorne Principal Bright helps at the water table

CREDO Study of Online Charter Schools

CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes) is a research organization located at Stanford University. CREDO recently released a report of the results of its study of online charter schools. The intent of the report was to "present the findings about impacts of online charter enrollment on the academic progress of students. " Dr. James L. Woodworth was the lead analyst on the project, and Dr. Margaret E. Raymond was the Project Director.

The CREDO study looked at comparative math and reading growth data between online charter and "traditional" schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia. No online schools in Idaho were part of the study. 

 Among the findings in the CREDO study (page 23) "Compared to their VCRs (Virtual Control Records) in the TPS (Traditional Public Schools), online charter students have much weaker growth overall. Across all tested students in online charters, the typical academic gains for math are -0.25 standard deviations (equivalent to 180 fewer days of learning) and -0.10 (equivalent to 72 fewer days) for reading . This means that compared to their twin attending TPS, the sizes of the coefficients leave little doubt attending an online charter school leads to lessened academic growth for the average student. 

ISBA approves Boise Resolution

At the Idaho School Boards Association business meeting in November, the Boise School Board's resolution received a 91% approval vote from ISBA membership. Boise's resolution recommended 3 actions:
    • Eliminate the requirement that students pass a high stakes “college readiness” assessment prior to graduating from high school.
    • Ensure that students are not required to take NCLB assessments outside the grade levels required by the federal government.
    • Prior to the conclusion of the SBAC contract, create criteria for adoption of a test that satisfies federal standards, provides consistent, detailed feedback about academic strengths and weaknesses based on Idaho Core Standards to students, parents, and teachers, and can be administered in a reasonable amount of time.

Pictures of 15 classrooms

Here is a link to an article in the Washington Post which features photographs of classrooms around the world, taken in September, 2015. From Islamabad, Pakistan to Nairobi, Kenya to Boston Latin School, the photos of students, teachers, and classrooms are fascinating.

Students Who Have "Got to Go"

Kate Taylor, a reporter for the New York Times, filed this article about the Success Academy Charter System in New York City. Here's a quote from this interesting article:

"At Success Academy Fort Greene, the same day that Ms. Ogundiran heard from the principal, her daughter’s name was one of 16 placed on a list drawn up at his direction and shared by school leaders.

The heading on the list was “Got to Go.”

Nine of the students on the list later withdrew from the school. Some of their parents said in interviews that while their children attended Success, their lives were upended by repeated suspensions and frequent demands that they pick up their children early or meet with school or network staff members. Four of the parents said that school or network employees told them explicitly that the school, whose oldest students are now in the third grade, was not right for their children and that they should go elsewhere."