Sunday, September 25, 2016


Across the state, Idaho districts continue to see decreasing kindergarten enrollment, as the echo of the recession results in smaller classes. Though it appears that the downward trend in birth rates may be coming to an end, it's worth watching enrollment trends as smaller classes move through school systems in the next few years.

The Finance Division of the Idaho Department of Education has published an historical review of enrollment in districts and schools across the state, which is very helpful in analyzing trends.

Here's what's happened to Idaho kindergarten enrollment since 2007:

Idaho's kindergarten enrollment has declined by 6% in the past two years, and is now at its lowest point in the last nine years.  These data include Charter School kindergarten enrollment, which us up about 100 students since 2014-15.

Idaho's live birth rates tend to predict kindergarten enrollment five years later. As you can see, if the data remain predictive, we'll likely see at least one more year of lower statewide kindergarten enrollment.

Here are kindergarten enrollment data for five of Idaho's large districts:

As you can see, each of the five large districts had lower kindergarten enrollment in 2015-16 than in 2010-11. Cumulatively, kindergarten enrollment is over 800 lower in these districts than it was just two years ago.

It will be interesting to see the effect of these smaller classes on Idaho's overall enrollment in future years. We know that the 2015-16 first grade class is 3% smaller than that of 2014-15, though K-12 enrollment was 1% larger (about 3400 students) in 2015-16 than in 2014-15.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Boise Students Comprise 50% of Idaho's National Merit Semi-Finalists

Forty-seven (47) Boise District juniors qualified as 2017 National Merit Semi-Finalists, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. That's half of the qualifiers in the State of Idaho. Boise has about 9% of the students in the state.

The West Ada District had the second highest number of Semi-Finalists, with 11. 

From the NMSQ press release:

"About 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors."

New York Times Magazine Features Boise Refugee Students

Los Angeles-based professional photographer Angie Smith, who has deep ties to Boise (both her mom and dad live here) has published a photo-essay collection in the New York Times Magazine that features refugee students from the Boise and West Ada Districts. It's a truly remarkable piece.

Picture from the Stronger Shines the Light Inside website

The Stronger Shines the Light Inside website provides some background on Angie and writer Hanne Steen, and several stories of refugees in Boise. Her work is featured in downtown Boise for the month of September, at 3 locations:

  • City Hall, 150 Capitol Blvd.
  • 10th and Bannock
  • The Grove Plaza, 826 W, Main St.
First Tee Program Comes to Hillcrest

The First Tee of Idaho is a non-profit program dedicated to promoting positive values and character traits among young people through the game of golf. In conjunction with the Albertson Boise Open, First Tee brought several professional golfers to Hillcrest School on Monday, September 12.

The golfers worked with Hillcrest 4th graders on various principles, volunteering their time with our students. The kids had a blast learning from the pros!

The First Tee of Idaho has donated over $10,000 of equipment to Boise Schools over the past couple of years. Thanks First Tee!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


The Boise District's partnership with the City of Boise, United Way, and other non-profits and donors in the community has resulted in many beneficial programs, including the addition of Pre-K programs at two schools, Hawthorne and Whitney.

In 2015-16, Hawthorne had morning and afternoon sessions of preschool, and Whitney had a morning session. With the administration of the fall Idaho Reading Indicator to kindergartners at the two schools, it's clear that the Pre-K programs were a smashing success.

Hawthorne and Whitney both have high percentages of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch. We know that poverty is linked closely to lack of preparedness for school. In 2015,  just over half (52%) of entering kindergartners at the two schools scored a "3" on the IRI, indicating that they were ready to read.

We were excited to see the impact that having preschool instruction at the two schools would have on the preparedness of the children involved in the program. Here are the results:

83% of the entering kindergartners who completed Pre-K at Hawthorne and Whitney scored a "3" on the Fall kindergarten IRI, compared with half of those who had not had Pre-K. That's 20% higher than the Boise District as a whole in 2015, and 30% higher than the 2015 percentage for the state of Idaho.

Four students moved out of district or out of state over the summer. Nine are enrolled at other elementary schools in the Boise District (the scores for these in-district students are included in the Pre-K category in the above chart).

We know that the numbers are small for this first year. 15 of the students in last year's Pre-K program were too young to start kindergarten this year, and so will get another year of Pre-K k at Whitney or Hawthorne. And Whitney has added a Pre-K session for 2016-17.

It's exciting to see such outstanding early results from the Boise Pre-K program. Of course, a ton of credit goes to our two outstanding Pre-K teachers, Grace Ruddy at Hawthorne and Shelia Dengler-Shaw at Whitney, and their support staffers. Thanks to our community partners and to the city of Boise and the United Way, as well.

We will continue to follow this group of kindergartners, and successive groups of Pre-K students, to assess their short and long term progress. What a great start!