Saturday, December 31, 2016


Across the state of Idaho, AP participation and exams are showing growth. But which district and high schools are providing the opportunity for rigor through AP to their students?

There are several ways to look at the data. Here is a chart showing student exam participation in Idaho districts with more than 50 students taking 1 or more exams.

Well, not really a fair comparison. Boise and West Ada have the largest participation rates, but the two are the largest districts in the state, as well. Also, Coeur d'Alene's data includes Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy's students, which inflates the total for the district.

It's interesting to look at growth in student AP exam participation in examining the effort districts are making to improve their AP programs, no matter how large or small the district or participation, no matter how large or small the numbers (as long as they are greater than 50).

The Nampa District appears to be making a concerted effort to grow its AP program, with most of the increase coming at Columbia and Skyview High Schools. Blaine County, Madison, and Twin Falls also have seen increases in participation of over 30%.

Next,  let's have a look at student participation and exams taken by high school, again using the 50 student bar.

The four comprehensive Boise high schools lead the way, followed by Vallivue, Rocky Mountain (West Ada), Centennial (West Ada), Century (Pocatello)  and Blaine County.

The picture is not much different when we look at exams taken by high school.

Again, though, these are not really fair comparisons, since most of the high schools in the chart are large. 

So we took the student participation numbers at the high schools we examined and compared them with the number of juniors and seniors enrolled in 2016, and expressed the resulting fraction as a percentage. Here's what the comparison revealed:

This chart more fairly expresses the AP participation by school. Note that Coeur d'Alene Charter, McCall-Donnelly, and Wood River (Blaine County) are now in the upper reaches of the chart. What the comparison misses is that a number of sophomores, and a few 9th graders, take AP exams. However, it does get at the issue of school size.

We realize that CDA Charter is a special case - the school serves a select group of students who are looking for rigorous curricula, and, from 7th to 12th grade, we see the school's enrollment drop substantially. Still, when we examined the array of AP courses offered at the school, we were impressed. We counted 13 Advanced Placement courses taught in the school.

McCall-Donnelly and Blaine County offer multiple AP courses, as well, proving that relatively small schools can offer an impressive array of opportunities. 

Of course, in the Boise District, students can choose from among 25 Advanced Placement offerings, regardless of the high school they attend. In the Vallivue District, there are 17 offerings, and students attending Ridgevue (the district's new high school) and Vallivue High School have equivalent opportunities for rigor.

In many high schools across the state, there are no Advanced Placement offerings. While dual credit opportunities typically abound in these districts, students cannot take the "gold standard" offerings provided in other districts, except through online opportunities from the Idaho Digital Learning Academy and others. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016


There was an interesting op-ed in the Idaho Statesman the other day, from a former Advanced Placement teacher, asserting that dual credit classes are no substitute for college classes. For many Boise District alumni who have benefited from the credits they have earned from AP tests, that will come as a surprise, especially since they have earned credit for core classes at prestigious universities and colleges, and started college as second semester freshman or even as sophomores. AND they will tell you they felt well-prepared for the subsequent courses they took.

AP courses are, of course, not intended to satisfy advanced college coursework requirements in major areas. They are, instead, meant to allow students to get a head start on their college careers by passing exams that certify their competence in content knowledge in core college academic courses.

The reason we consider Advanced Placement to be the "gold standard" among college preparation programs is that students must take and pass rigorous exams which serve as a national benchmark accepted by the vast majority of colleges nationwide. About 2/3 of exams from the Boise District were judged to meet that standard in 2016. The overall Idaho percentage was 63% (60% without Boise. The national 2016 "passing" percentage was 58%.

Most students do not use AP course credit to graduate early from college. Instead, they take on double majors, add a minor area, or use the flexibility afforded by the credits they have earned to travel abroad or to ease the load as they participate in activities and sports in college.

Idaho Student AP Participation Has Grown Dramatically

Participation in Idaho's AP testing program has increased steadily since 1995, and is now almost 6 times what it was 21 years ago. These are students who took one or more exams in the given year's AP testing.

However, the Boise District's AP participation as a percentage of the statewide student count has also increased:

So when we take out Boise's numbers, we get an idea of what's happened with AP participation across the state of Idaho outside of Boise. The increase is still impressive, with over 4 times as many students participating in the program as did in 1995.

The Number of Idaho Exams has Increased Substantially, as Well

Since 1995, the number of AP exams taken in the state of Idaho has increased by over 600%.

The percentage of exams taken by Boise students steadily increased for a number of years, and has been stable since 2010. In 2016, the percentage of exams taken by Boise students was 35%. Interestingly, among 2016 Boise District seniors, just under 10% had taken 10 or more exams during their high schools careers, and almost half took 5 or more.

Here is the increase in Idaho exams when the data are considered without the Boise District. The rate of increase without Boise is almost as high as it is when Boise's exams are included - a sign of a healthy, growing program around the state.

Next on the blog - which districts and high schools lead the way in AP, and who is making great progress?

Monday, December 19, 2016


Boise District students took 35% of the statewide Advanced Placement tests in 2016, setting a new high of just less than 4000 exams. District students represent about 9% of the statewide student population.

In the past twenty years, the exam total has grown from just over 500 to 3963, growth of almost 800%.

Student participation has increased in similar fashion, as well. In 1995, 203 students took at least one Advanced Placement exam. In 2016, 1992 students did so. 30% of the statewide student participation came from the Boise District.

The District Advanced Placement program began at Boise High School in 1980, under the leadership of Principal Jack Craven. It has since spread across the District to all 4 comprehensive high schools. Boise High still has the highest participation and gives the most exams (13% of the state total in 2016).

Though Boise High had the highest percentage of its students taking an AP exam in 2016 (44%), Timberline has made great gains - 40% of the student population took at least one exam in 2016. Borah and Capital were at 31% and 29%, respectively, in 2016.

It's interesting to note that the 3 most popular AP courses (and tests) satisfy graduation requirements in the Boise District and for the state. For example, AP English Language satisfies the junior English requirement, AP English Literature the senior English requirement, and AP US History the junior Social Studies requirement. AP Calculus AB satisfies one of the three required math courses, as well. The true electives on the "most popular" list are AP World History, AP Psychology, and AP Human Geography. 

In those three courses, Boise students take a much higher percentage of statewide AP exams. In World History, 51% of the state's exams were taken by Boise students, in Psychology 66%, and in Human Geography, 86%.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


McREL International, a Denver-based non-profit which has developed its own teacher evaluation system, was hired by the Idaho Department of Education to review Idaho's progress in implementing its evaluation system, which is based on the Charlotte Danielson evaluation model.

McREL was asked to audit 225 randomly selected teacher evaluations from across the state (36 of the 225 came from Boise, which has about 12% of the state's teachers). A State Department of Education committee, the Principal Evaluation Review Committee, provided the questions that McREL was to use in preparing its report.

Idaho Education News greeted the publication of the audit data with the headline "Audit Finds 99% of Teacher Evaluations were Inaccurate or Incomplete". Idaho Board of Education President Emma Atchley said soon after the publication of the article, “The audit raises serious concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process conducted during the 2014-2015 school year.” 

But did it? Let's take a look at the questions provided by the committee and used by the auditors and how they relate to Idaho Code and practice.

Question 1 - What are the components that were on the Individual Professional Learning Plan (IPLP)?

The audited evaluations were from the 2014-15 school year. The IPLP was not required that year; it came into effect in 2015-16. No wonder a large number of evaluations missed the mark in this area.

Question 2 - Does the professional practice portion include all 22 components of the Charlotte Danielson Framework (2nd ed.)?

State Board  rule requires that “each district evaluation model shall be aligned to state minimum standards that are based on Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching Second Edition domains and components of instruction. The rule, by design, does not require districts to adopt verbatim the Danielson Framework domains and components as was implied in the questions given to McREL for the evaluation.

For example, the Bonneville District uses a different evaluation system which is aligned the the Danielson system, but did not satisfy the criteria in the question, and is not required to. The Bonneville system was approved by the Idaho Department of Education.

Question 3 - Record the levels of performance for each component (1, 2, 3 or 4)

Again, State Board rule requires districts to establish a “rating system with a minimum of three (3) rankings (not 4) used to differentiate performance of teachers and pupil personnel certificate holders including: Unsatisfactory being equal to “1”; Basic being equal to “2”; and Proficient being equal to “3”. For example, Boise uses 3 categories, as is required. Even though every one of Boise's evals met State Board rule, they would all have missed the mark on this question.

Question 4 -What are the dates of the two documented observations?

Idaho teacher evaluations must include a minimum of two documented observations, one of which shall be completed prior to January 1 of each year. In the Boise School District, we require our principals to complete, at a minimum, one formal observation prior to January 1st in compliance with the law as well as a second formal observation that becomes incorporated into the final formal evaluation. The dates may not have been noted on the evaluation but in every case two observations or more were made.

Further, in two cases, the audit identified employees who did not have an evaluation because they were on leave during the second semester of the school year, one for family leave and the other for medical reasons.  However, the auditors did not ask for the reasons for missing evaluations.

Question 5 - Which additional measure(s) was included to inform professional

  • Student Input
  • Parent Input
  • Portfolio
  • None

The Boise District uses parent input to satisfy this State Board required element.

Question 6 - Which measures were used for student achievement?

The data elements provided to McREL for this review come from the options to measure
student achievement under the Career Ladder which was not part of the state law and was not required until 2015­-2016 with the introduction of the Career Ladder Legislation that was established during the 2015 Legislative Session. In 2014­-2015, districts had to include ISAT data in the evaluation as well as one or more of multiple objective measures of growth in student achievement, which could be determined by the board of trustees. Districts could choose for the ISAT to count for 1% up to 32% of the 33% of the evaluation that was to be
based on student achievement.

Additionally, the rule states that “growth in student achievement may be considered as an optional measure for all other school based and district based staff, as determined by the local board of trustees.”

As a result of this provision, any evaluations that were reviewed by McREL that were not instructional staff, may not have had student achievement data included because it did not have to be included in accordance with State Board rule. This was the case for two evaluations that were randomly selected as part of the Boise School District sampling.

Question 7 - What is the summative rating?

Question 8 - Does the summative rating include combining professional practice (67%) and student achievement (33%) 

The Boise School District requires a separate rating for the 33% of the
evaluation that is based on growth in student achievement and an overall
summative rating that includes combining the 67% and 33%.

Question 9 - What is the date of the summative evaluation?

Question 10 - Was it completed by May 1st?

Three (3) 2014-2015 Boise District audited evaluations were submitted between May and June 1. For 2015-16, that submittal date was changed by the legislature to June 1 because May 1 was deemed too early.

Question 11 - Is there a written evaluation policy?

The State Department of Education did not ask for the District's policy, or we would have provided it.

In summary, McREL was asked in the 2014-15 audit to:

  • conduct analyses of elements not required by law or under Idaho Code
  • analyze adherence to deadlines that had already been determined unreasonable by the legislature
  • summarize without asking for explanation:
    • observations required by law and by local policy
    • missing evaluations that may have been due to unforeseen circumstances
In order for legislators to have an understanding of the errors inherent to the audit process as they make decisions about the Career Ladder, it makes sense that the State Department of Education confer with districts involved in the audit as soon as possible. We believe we have done a thorough job of outlining the flaws of the audit. Now is the time to set it right.


It's now been a decade since the Boise District initiated the AVID program at Fairmont Junior High School. All of the District's secondary schools now have AVID programs, and 1195 students are currently taking AVID coursework. That's a far cry from year 1, when 85 Fairmont students formed the first AVID classes.

Here's a slide which describes in brief the components of the AVID program:

All four of our comprehensive high schools have had students graduate from the District with AVID training, and we have some interesting new statistics about those grads.

Of the 424 AVID high school graduates:

187 graduated from Capital (first AVID graduating class 2010-11)
167 graduated from Borah (first AVID graduating class 2011-12)
  45 graduated from Boise (first AVID graduating class 2012-13)
  25 graduated from Timberline (first AVID graduating class 2013-14)

In total, 326 attended college the fall after high school graduation (77%). By contrast, the class of 2015 Direct Attendance percentage for the State of Idaho was 46%. For the Boise District as a whole, it was 61%.

Of the 424 AVID high school graduates:

19 have graduated from college
15 from a 4-year college
  4 from a 2-year college
254 are still enrolled in college
(That's 64% who have graduated or are still enrolled)

Among the AVID college grads, 13 of the 19 came from the College of Idaho (4), Boise Sate University (3), the University of Idaho (3), and Idaho State University (3). The largest number of majors have been in business fields (accounting, marketing, etc.) and in Biology.

This rate is a good indicator of the persistence of students graduating from the District's AVID program and continuing on to college. Each year, we'll continue to provide reports on AVID college "Go On"" rates and graduation.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Reaction to President-Elect Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has been fast and furious. DeVos, a Michigan native and promoter of charters and vouchers, has been praised from some corners:

In the Chatanoogan, Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Education committee, said:

“Betsy DeVos is an excellent choice. The Senate’s education committee will move swiftly in January to consider her nomination. Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children. As secretary, she will be able to implement the new law fixing No Child Left Behind just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers, and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities..."

And former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said this, as reported on

“I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms,” he said.

Others, and especially those in the public education sphere, feel differently.

Peter Greene, author of the education blog Curmudgucation, shared his feelings in a piece entitled "How Bad Is DeVos? So Bad...". Here's a quote from his piece:

"...In fact, before we even start to discuss just how terrible and destructive her (Devos') ideas about public education are, we should be talking about her complete lack of qualifications to run a federal department. She is not familiar with how schools work. She is not familiar with how large metropolitan or state systems for education work. She is not familiar with how to work with people who are not on her personal payroll."

Here's another post by Greene on the same subject.

In Electablog, from Michigan, Devos' home state, Mitchell Robinson writes "Trump names Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education: It’s Game, Set, Match for public education", and includes this quote:

"For (Michigan Governor) Snyder and DeVos, the purpose of education is not to help develop a more informed and educated citizenry, or to help children to become more fully human by providing a comprehensive, high quality curriculum, including music, art, and physical education in addition to the rest of the disciplines. The purpose of education under Snyder and DeVos is to turn the state’s once excellent system of public schools into an educational WalMart, boasting “low, low prices” in place of quality instruction."

And here is Carol Burris, and award winning high school principal, as quoted in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, written by Valerie Strauss:

"The DeVos pick makes one thing clear — it shows Trump’s commitment to the privatization of public schools. … DeVos wants all children to have vouchers, and she opposes regulations and oversight.  Betsy DeVos spent over $1 million to successfully block the effort of the Michigan legislature to clean up the mess of for-profit, unregulated charters. … The veil of so-called ed reform is now off."

And finally, analysis from The Atlantic online edition, "5 Things to Know About Betsy Devos, Trump's pick for Secretary of Education".

Batten down the hatches. It's going to be an interesting ride.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


"Go On" rates in the Southern Idaho Conference had gained ground from 2007 (when we started tracking the data in our high schools) to 2013, . But data from the Idaho Board of Education's High School Feedback website shows that "Direct to College" and "12 month enrollment" have plummeted for the classes of 2014 and 2015, in the SIC and statewide.

The overall "Direct to College" rate sank from 50% with the class of 2013 to 44% for the class of 2015. The "12 month enrollment" rate rate dropped from 54% to 46% for the same classes.

Among the 14 largest school districts in the state, all but Coeur d'Alene lost ground in 12 month enrollment, and, with the class of 2015, only Boise and Coeur d'Alene stood at 60% or above with Boise at 60% and CDA at 61%. 

Here are the data for those districts:

So, what gives? Why have rates gone down after districts were making good progress?

Well, our best guess if that the sudden drop is due to two primary factors:

  • Many more jobs are available in the current economy
  • The prospect of the accumulation of considerable debt is not attractive to Idaho high school students or their families
It probably doesn't help, either, that certain Idaho entities have been telling Idaho high school students that they aren't "ready" or "prepared" for college, even though the data show that the measures used to assess preparedness are not particularly well correlated with success in college.

However, the Idaho State Board of Education has taken measures that hopefully will help to address the issue. The Board in 2015 began a program called "Direct Admission", in which letters of admission to Idaho colleges were sent to over 20,000 Idaho high school students based on their cumulative GPA (the best predictor of college success).

Idaho college enrollments are up this fall, so we suspect that the program has been a success. But we will know how it's affected "Go On" rates soon. The National Student Clearinghouse Direct to College reports for the class of 2016 will be available at the end of November.

In Boise, we have been very supportive of the SBOE Direct Admission program, but we are also moving to strengthen our Career Technical programs. The Boise District will add several CTE programs in the next several years. These programs will be in the areas of Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing, three job training areas that are expected to grow by 20% or more in the next decade. These programs, which will likely not be outsourced in coming years(!), will add to the other excellent programs at the Dennis Career Center, such as Auto Body, Auto Tech, and Welding.

Interestingly enough, our business partners indicate that these jobs can often provide high five-figure incomes for students who work through the required internships. They also indicate high job satisfaction in these jobs for students who like to "work with their hands".


About Those National Merit Semi-Finalists...

As we've written previously. 47 of the 95 2017 Idaho National Merit Semi-Finalists go to school in the Boise District. For sure, these are some very bright and talented students. But they have also worked very hard to get where they are. These students are now seniors, and here is some information about their cumulative accomplishments:

Average Grade Point Average: 4.18 (weighted)

Average number of Advanced Placement classes: 10

Average EBRW SAT Score: 738 (Possible Score 800)

Average Math SAT Score: 743 (Possible Score 800)

Average Composite SAT Score: 1481 (Possible Score 1600)

Additionally, the vast majority of these stellar students somehow make time for pursuit in the arts, whether it be band, orchestra, art, or other coursework. A truly special group of students.

What Do Vouchers Accomplish? Not much.

Writing in Politico, Stephanie Simon has published an article entitled "Vouchers don't do Much for Students" in which she reports the research related to the controversial program.

Simon writes, "Ever since the Obama administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled the president for trapping poor kids in failing public schools...But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.

Simon also indicates that voucher programs benefit private schools and homeschoolers, writing "Also, voucher recipients aren’t always trapped in failing public schools; in fact, some have never even tried the public system. Fully two-thirds of students in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program were already enrolled in private schools before they received the tuition subsidy — and another 5 percent were home schooled, state data show."

Conflicting Research on Pre-K

David Loewenburg writes in The Atlantic an article about the holdout of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota on preschools, and attempts to explain why the phenomenon exists. In "Why the Mountain West is Still Holding out on Preschool" Loewenburg attributes the cause of Pre-k resistance to philosophical underpinnings: "The unique blend of conservatism and libertarianism embraced here manifests itself in a  collective exaltation of personal freedom, privacy, and a general skepticism of the government’s role in their daily lives."

Loewenburg writes about the resistance in the face of a growing body of research supporting the pre-k investment. But there is a new source of disagreement.

A new report from the Brookings Institute reports that research done in Tennessee that initially showed progress for over 1000 students enrolled in preschool there not only lost the academic advantage by the first grade, but scored lower than the control group by the end of 3rd grade.

Our favorite Pennsylvania English teacher Peter Greene responded critically to the Brooking report with his own article, entitled "Is Pre-k a Waste of Time?" in which he points out that the report was based solely on achievement testing, and not on more important measures of effectiveness.

Green writes, "There are two unexamined assumptions behind all of this foolishness.One is that education for the littles can only count if it is somehow converted to data that adults can feast on, and the other is that getting a head start on academic achievement and test-taking is more important than getting a head start on being a human being."

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Seems there have been an unprecedented number of education polls this year - 2016 began with the release of an Albertson Foundation poll, which was closely followed by a survey by BSU's Public Policy Department, A poll from Dan Jones and Associates for Idaho Politics Weekly, and another by BSU. Along the way, we asked for the help of Patinkin Research Strategies with our own "Customer Satisfaction" poll.

In each of these polls, questions were asked about similar educational issues, with somewhat different phrasing. And...they yielded very different results!

Quality of Idaho Schools

As indicated, the year began with the Albertson Foundation "Landmark" Survey, a statewide poll of 1000 citizens with an error margin of +/- 3%.

Here's question 2 from the Albertson Foundation survey (pink numbers represent percentages):

So, not really encouraging. Only 7% were totally satisfied with their public schools.  But at least 72% thought the schools were "okay" or "in very good shape".

Both BSU surveys asked a somewhat similar question. Here are the results of the question on the first survey.

On the first BSU survey (1000 respondents, +/- 3.1%), about 28% of the respondents rated the quality of Idaho's k-12 education as "Good" or "Excellent". When we add in "Fair", the percentage jumps to 65%, seven percentage points lower than the Albertson survey.

Dan Jones and Associates conducted education polling (601 respondents, +/- 4%) for Idaho Politics Weekly in August, and found decidedly different results. Fully 66% of respondents rated public schools a "4" or "5" on a five-point scale, a "favorable" rating. Another 19% rated public schools a "3"(neutral), meaning that 85% were either neutral or responded favorably.

Further, Jones and Associates found that only 55% expressed faith in charter schools, in almost direct opposition to the Albertson Foundation poll, which found that 80% "strongly favored" or "somewhat favored" charter schools.

The results of the  second BSU poll came out in September. The statewide results for the exact same question were different than those in BSU's first poll.

In the second BSU poll (1000 respondents, +/- 2.3%)  39.2% rated the quality of Idaho's K-12 schools as "Good" Or Excellent" compared with 27.6% in the first poll. And the percentage rating K-12 schools as "Fair", "Good" or "Excellent" was 71%, compared with 65% in the first poll.

Quality of Local Schools

The Albertson Foundation poll asked a question about local schools, then used all of the responses to aggregate a statewide "local public schools" grade from A to F.

This poll found that 42% of respondents would give local public schools a grade of "A" or "B", and 78% would give a grade of "C" or above.

The second BSU poll asked a similar question, but identified the responses related to particular school districts and in the Treasure Valley, and used the same "Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor" response matrix used for their overall education quality question.

If one considers "Fair" and above as similar to "C and above" the BSU survey found a similar percentage of responses in those categories  to the Albertson survey. In fact, 76% of respondents answered "Fair", "Good" and "Excellent" as to the quality of Treasure Valley public schools on the BSU survey, and 78% responded "A", "B" or "C" on the Albertson survey.

However, the BSU survey found that 50% of Treasure Valley respondents rated their schools "Excellent" or "Good", while the Albertson Foundation survey found that 42% of respondents statewide rated local schools "A" or "B".

In May, the Boise District conducted its "customer satisfaction" survey with Patinkin and Associates. The poll was conducted with 600 patrons, and had an error margin of +/- 4.9%. Here are survey responses to a question that attempted to get at the same kind of quality assessment among Boise patrons.

On this question, 83% of respondents respondents chose "Very well" or "Pretty well" as to how the statement "Does a good job with limited resources? describes the school district. The percentage rose to 92% when we subtracted "I don't know" from the totals and recalculated.

Polling Articles

There have been some interesting articles lately about factors which can influence polling results. Since the articles are about election polling, some of the references don't apply to the polls done this year on education. But some do.

From the New York Times' Upshot research blog, and article by David Rothschild and Sharad Goel entitled "When You Hear the Margin of Error Is Plus or Minus 3 Percent, Think 7 Instead" explores assumptions built into polls and weighting effects. From CNBC, David Schoen writes about the presidential elections polls in "Here's how to make sense of the latest Clinton, Trump poll results".

Schoen writes,"Why do the margins vary so widely from one poll to another? The short answer: Opinion polling includes a lot of guesswork and assumptions, and pollsters make different choices when setting up their surveys."

And, for some fun reading, here's another Upshot article, by Nate Cohn, that describes the undue influence that weighting might give some groups or individuals in "How One 19-Year-Old Illinois Man Is Distorting National Polling Averages".

And, finally, here's an interesting article published in Boise Weekly (originally in Propublica) about faulty ballot design. You may recall that we had some issues with ballots in the 2014 School Board elections. These examples are amazing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


The late 90's and early 2000's saw a shift in public school enrollment across the Treasure Valley. Families increasingly moved from Boise into the suburban areas, first to Meridian and subsequently to other parts of the valley in search of more affordable real estate. Boise's enrollment shrank, and Meridian (now West Ada)'s exploded. Using State Department of Education data, we have put together a chart-based examination of the shift.

Boise and West Ada

The districts' enrollment paths crossed in 2003; since then, West Ada has grown by about 11,600 students, and Boise by about 150. And that's with about 1150 West Ada students open enrolled to Boise's schools. 

West Ada's kindergarten enrollment grew by leaps and bounds during this period, even though it has declined recently. Even though kindergarten enrollment grew in Boise until recently, the pace of growth was not even remotely close to that of West Ada.

But something else was happening, as well. Not only was West Ada's kindergarten enrollment growing dramatically from year to year, but classes entering the system grew substantially as they progressed toward graduation.

Here are the classes of '15 and '16 from the two districts, from kindergarten through 12th grade:

In the West Ada District, the classes of 2015 and 2016 grew by 29% and 27%, respectively, as they progressed through the grades. In Boise, the class of 2015 grew by 2% and the class of 2016 was about the same size in kindergarten as it was in 12th grade.

Smaller Treasure Valley Districts

Here's the 20-year enrollment pattern for four smaller Treasure Valley districts:

As you can see, Vallivue's enrollment has jumped from about 3000 to just over 8500 in 20 years, and Kuna's student population has more than doubled in the same time period. The Vallivue District had only one 4A high school in 1995; Vallivue High then moved to 5A (largest athletic classification), and now the district has 2 4A schools, after opening a new high school, Ridgevue, this year. Kuna is in its first year with a 5A high school.

Kindergarten enrollment over time:

Again, Vallivue's kindergarten enrollment has more than tripled in the past 20 years, going from 212 in 1995 to 672 last year. Kuna's kindergarten enrollment has also grown substantially.

And finally, a longitudinal look at k-12 enrollment in the four districts:

With the exception of Caldwell, each district saw enrollment growth from k to 12, with Kuna's class growing the by over 100 students. However, Caldwell's class of 2016 was 200 smaller than when it started out.