Saturday, December 30, 2017


Here's an update on the newest graduating class of AVID students, and on all of the students who are enrolled in college or who have graduated.

Class of 2017

Here's the college enrollment information for the class of 2017, compared with data from the Idaho Board of Education's High School Feedback Reports, which contain data for every school and district in the state.

The District's AVID "direct-to-college" percentage has remained high across all classes, averaging just under 80%. The highest "direct-to-college rate was for the class of 2012 at 90%, and the lowest was for the class of 2016 at 71%.

Typically, most AVID graduates go to school in state (about 3/4 enroll at one of three colleges, Boise State, the University of Idaho, and the College of Western Idaho.

Total Graduation/Retention Percentages - All AVID Classes

The graduation figures for AVID students are growing - 40 students have graduated with a diploma or a certificate. Of the graduates, 8 have degrees from BSU, 7 from the College of Idaho, and 6 each from CWI and the University of Idaho. Others have earned degrees or certificates from Pepperdine University, the University of Utah, Idaho State University (2), Northern Arizona University, Austin Peay University (TN), South Puget Sound CC (WA), Northwest Nazarene University, College of Southern Idaho, and Carrington College (2), North Idaho College, and the University of Minnesota, Crookston.

Interestingly, two students from the class of 2011 and 11 from the class of 2012 are still enrolled in college. Typically, these students started late or took a stop out during their college careers, but a few have been attending since high school graduation, six or even seven years after high school graduation.

Monday, December 18, 2017


Recently, Terry Ryan, CEO of the Boise-based education nonprofit Bluum and of the Idaho Charter School Network, wrote an article in Idaho Education News decrying an Associated Press article which criticized charters as being among the most segregated schools in the country. Ryan noted that there have been criticisms leveled at the authors of the article.

But this is only one of a number of charter critiques that's been published lately. 

Since these are just a few of the recent articles about charters, it's curious that Ryan opted to respond to the Associated Press article.  However, his claim is that Idaho charters are different:

From his op-ed: "In Idaho, critics have accused public charter schools of pulling the highest performing students out of their traditional public-school classrooms and creating student populations that do not reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. In 2015, a Boise-based organization, Centro de Communidad y Justicia, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s (US DOE) Office of Civil Rights. According to that complaint, “Idaho’s charter school system has evolved into an unequal public-school system that discriminates against students of color, LEP students, students with disabilities (many of whom are Latino), and students from low-income families.” The hard charging US DOE’s Office of Civil Rights under President Obama never acted on this complaint apparently finding little merit in it."

To prove his point, Ryan cites Idaho State Department data to show that Idaho's charters as a whole, while not matching Idaho demographics, come very close to the demographics of the Boise and West Ada districts.

There are a few problems with Ryan's arguments:
  • First and foremost, Idaho's charters as a whole are not a school district; they are a bunch of disparate schools which are spread across the state of Idaho.
  • Idaho charters are mostly k-8 or k-6 schools, so comparing to k-12 systems is an apples-to-oranges measure.
  • Selecting certain demographics and ignoring others is cherry-picking -- it's important to note that Idaho has a large number of Limited English students, and the charter system has almost none.
Here are the data with regard to Boise's charters and the District as a whole.

If we really want to look at how Idaho's charters are doing, we should follow the example set by Anser, a Boise charter that is sponsored by the Boise School District. Each year, Anser's staff and their Board chair appear before the Boise Board of Trustees and present their annual report. As part of the report, they compare school performance with demographically similar schools in the District. Since Anser's free/reduced percentage is in the teens, they compare their performance with Roosevelt and Washington Schools in the Boise District. At some levels, Anser has superior achievement to the District schools; in others, they have lower achievement. But Anser makes an appropriate comparison and uses the data to set goals and improve performance. 

For the most part, we would agree that we have not seen the widespread problems that have occurred elsewhere with charters in Idaho. However, charters in general do not reflect the demographics of the school districts in which they reside.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


We often look to other states for ideas about effective programs that may work for our students here in Boise. For example, the Vancouver, Washington School District, which has very similar demographics to Boise, pioneered a Community Schools program a number of years ago. Several district staff traveled to Vancouver to see the program, and we have since adopted much of its structure in our first Community Schools, at Garfield, Whittier, Morley Nelson, Whitney, and Frank Church. 

We also attempt to compare our results in Boise with demographically similar districts and schools in other states. However, it's often difficult to find the data to make valid comparisons. But, in the case of Advanced Placement, we were able to find information we needed, such as Free/Reduced Lunch %ages, AP Exams Given and Passed, and Enrollment numbers, to look at high schools in both states and make an apples-to-apples comparison.

AP Participation

We found a great deal of relevant data on the Washington Department of Education website, including enrollment reports , free/reduced lunch percentages, and AP exam participation and passing exam numbersby district and school, that assisted us in our analysis. Some Washington high schools focus on the International Baccalaureate program and gave very few AP exams; we tried to take them out of the comparison if we could. Others use dual credit opportunities as their primary method for acquiring college credit, as do many Idaho schools - we believe Advanced Placement is the "gold standard" because it allows students to apply credits at some many colleges around the country.

However, some Washington high schools gave tremendous number of AP exams, so we were able to make a comparison between them and Idaho schools. Following is a chart showing the number of AP exams given on the y-axis, and the percentage of free/reduced lunch on the x-axis, for larger Idaho and Washington high schools.

As you can see, the Bellevue District high schools gave a huge number of AP exams. Newport, Bellevue, and Interlake high schools are annually among the top schools in the Washington Post's Challenging Schools Index. After that, you'll see 20-30 high schools that far exceed the average of what might be expected in terms of exams, including the 4 comprehensive Boise District high schools.

Note that there are relatively few high schools in the chart that have higher percentages (>40%) of free/reduced students and gave a large number of exams. Those include Borah, Capital, Lincoln High School in Tacoma, North Central and Rogers High School in Spokane, and Mt. Vernon High School on northwest Washington state.

Success Ratio

In order to look at the success high schools are having with their AP programs, we use a  ratio to determine the number of passing exams at the school in a given year (times 100) divided by the number of juniors and seniors enrolled. Using this ratio allows us to consider program success on the y-axis and free/reduced lunch percentage on the y-axis. Schools that allow only their top students to take AP classes will typically do poorly in this comparison, as do schools that have a very low passing percentage on the exams.

Bellevue's schools knock it out of the park in this comparison as well, because they give huge numbers of exams and have high passing percentages. However, several other districts fare very well in this comparison - Spokane's high schools offer significant AP opportunities and have large numbers of passing exams - Lewis and Clark, North Central, Ferris, and Rogers are all in the Spokane District. Boise, Borah, Capital, and Timberline all fare well in the comparison. Two Seattle high schools, Garfield and Roosevelt, and two schools in the Evergreen District, in southwest Washington, Mt. View and Union. did very well, as did Issaquah and Liberty High Schools east of Seattle. Wood River and McCall were not large enough for inclusion, but we wanted to see how they fared, and they match up well, as does Century in Pocatello.

This analysis allows us to look at high schools in Washington from which we can learn about how they are providing AP opportunities, or unique preparatory programs they may be offering. We have visited Bellevue, and adopted a "just in time" math seminars that provide remediation of student math understandings the same day as a concept is introduced or the day after.

But other districts have clearly done some things from which we can learn and get better. We'll find out what North Central High School in Spokane and Everett High School are doing to encourage student participation in AP courses, along with several other high schools in the comparison.