Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Idaho high school students earned over 100,000 college credits in 2014-15. What better measure of readiness for college than actually taking and passing courses certified by Boise State University, Northwest Nazarene University, the College of Western Idaho, and other colleges and universities, or taking Advanced Placement coursework and the rigorous AP tests that conclude the courses?

Dual Credit

Here's a slide portraying the growth in Dual Credit participation since 2008-09 by students across the state of Idaho. More than 8000 more students participated last year than did only six years ago.

In the ten districts of the Southern Idaho Conference (Emmett, Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna, Mountain Home, Vallivue, Middleton, West Ada, and Bishop Kelly), Dual Credit enrollment has grown from 1,820 students to 6,910. In other words, over four times as many students were enrolled last year in Dual Credit coursework than were just six years ago.

As you might expect, the number of Dual Credits earned by students statewide has also dramatically increased:

Locally, students earned 6305 Dual Credits in 2008-09, and in 2014-15, just 6 years later, the number was 28,848. That's well over 4 times as many credits earned as were earned in 2008-09.

Advanced Placement

In Dual Credit programs teachers are approved to teach the classes by the host university or college, and students must garner a grade of "B" in the course to receive the credits.

In Advanced Placement coursework, students take a rigorous national exam prepared by the College Board in order to qualify for college credit. The exams are graded at a central location, and students who receive a score of 3, 4, or 5 on a 1-5 scale are eligible for college credit at most universities and colleges nationwide.

Universities and colleges decide what credit they will provide for scores of 3, 4, or 5. The College Board has a website parents and students can check for the credit policies of colleges and universities.

Since Advanced Placement is viewed as the "gold standard" of rigorous coursework, and the exams are seen as very difficult, fewer students in many districts participate in Advanced Placement coursework. In 2014-15, the Boise District gave 37% of the AP exams statewide. 

Nevertheless, the number of students taking at least one AP exam has increased substantially during the same period of time. in 2008-09, about 4300 students participated in AP testing statewide; in 2014-15, the number was 6151.

In the Treasure Valley, 2198 students participated in AP testing in 2008-09. By 2014-15, 3496 students took AP tests.

The number of AP exams taken statewide has gone from about 700o in 2008-09 to 10442 in 2014-15. Students received a score of "3" or better on 65% of the exams in 2014-15, meaning that over 6700 exams were eligible for credit. At 3 credits per eligible exam, Idaho students were eligible for over 20,000 college credits via AP exams in 2014-15.

In 2014-15, Treasure Valley students were eligible for over half of the credits earned in the state, at over 11,700.

When you add it all up, Idaho students earned over 100,000 credits from colleges and universities across the country in 2014-15.

With State Board of Education analyses indicating that students who participate in these Advanced Opportunities go on to college at a much higher rate (71%) than do those who don't participate (45%), and come back for sophomore year at a much higher rate (80% compared with 63%) we know we are on the right track with Dual Credit and AP classes.

Idaho's legislature recently passed legislation to provide each Idaho student with fiscal support for Dual Credit fees and AP exam fees to the tune of over $4600.  Our students are receiving the support they need to be prepared for the future. 

Monday, March 7, 2016


In Sunday's Idaho Statesman, an economist writing in the "Guest Opinion" section made this statement about SAT performance of Idaho's students:

"The 17.8 percent (college-ready) estimate is the share of Idaho’s students scoring above 500 on each section of the SAT. Let’s call this Measure 1. The 25.7 percent (college-ready) estimate is the share of Idaho’s students scoring 1550 on all three sections. Let’s call this Measure 2."...

and then later in the opinion:

"Regardless of the measure, the takeaway is the same: the large majority of Idaho’s students are not prepared for life after high school."

So it's really not important which way you analyze the results, because every measure will show the low performance of Idaho students, which the author characterized as "at best average in the share of high school students who are college and career ready."

The issue, however, is that it does matter, and that measures of "college readiness" are providing us with dramatically different estimates of where Idaho's high school college readiness performance stands.


The SAT is a college-readiness test administered to all juniors in Idaho and provided by the College Board, which also publishes a test called the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) which is taken by 10th graders across Idaho. The College Board also provides the Advanced Placement examinations, which are administered to students taking AP courses at the conclusion of the course.

For the past several years, there have been 3 subtests on the SAT - Reading, Math, and Writing. But the April 2016 administration of the SAT to all juniors will be with a test revised to align with the Idaho Core standards, and will have only 2 subtests, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. Here is the performance of Idaho and Boise students on the 2015 administration of the (old) test.

The first administration of the "new" PSAT to all sophomores was in October 2015, with results arriving in January. The new PSAT  (and new SAT ) are meant to predict preparation for entry level college courses in math and language arts in 2 and 4-year colleges. Here are the results of the first Idaho administration of the PSAT:

Note that PSAT math performance and passage of both tests  is considerably higher than on the "old" SAT, and that ERW performance is far above that seen on the old SAT in Reading or Writing.


But wait- there's more! Idaho conducted the first administration of the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment) last spring, tying up computers across the state for weeks on end. The SBAC results, promised by the end of the school year, turned up in late July.

So, math readiness on the old SAT and on the SBAC matches up fairly well, but the PSAT readiness indicator is quite a bit higher; in Reading, the new PSAT features readiness percentages that are far higher than the old SAT, and the SBAC readiness  percentages are somewhere in the middle.

Is the percentage of Idaho "college ready" students in Reading 37%, as the old SAT indicated, or is it 90%, as the PSAT said, or 61%, as the SBAC noted? Who knows?

And this brings us to a final indicator, which will be the subject of the next Data Points post. Next time we'll have a look at the growth in Dual Credit and Advanced Placement coursework across the state and in the Treasure Valley. This post will focus on student participation in these programs and college credits earned by Idaho students - the most reliable indicator of readiness, we'd say.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article64197297.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article64197297.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article64197297.html#storylink=cpy