Friday, November 23, 2018


Fall kindergarten results from the new (IStation) Idaho Reading Indicator make clear (again) that Pre-kindergarten classes are needed in Idaho.

Across the state, 45% of kindergartners were judged to be at grade level on the new assessment, a bit lower than on the previous IRI, but still demonstrative of the need for preparation of entering kinders.

As it was with the "old" IRI, the new one is highly reflective of poverty. Though there are a few surprises, in general schools with higher poverty levels perform more poorly on the Fall kindergarten IRI than do those with lower levels of poverty. Put simply, more kids in those high-poverty schools lack the pre-reading skills necessary for "grade level" performance on pre-reading tasks.

About 3/4 of statewide schools with kindergartens were provided by the State Department of Education for analysis. Just over 100 schools had few enough kindergartners so as to require data masking of the number of "grade level" students. Even so, it was no surprise that particular high poverty schools had the lowest percentages of grade level students.

In the Treasure Valley, the lowest percentages of "grade level" kindergartners were at these schools:

Cynthia Mann, in northwest Boise, is a bit of a surprise, but it's not unusual to have a low-scoring kindergarten class once in a while. The other nine are not one bit unexpected.

All told, there were seventy schools with under a third of their students ready for kindergarten reading. These schools would be a great subject for an affordable pilot in Idaho, to see if high quality pre-k will make a difference for us.

Just by way of comparison, here are the ten highest-scoring kinder classes by school in the Treasure Valley. You hardly need the grade level info to predict which schools are on this list, as long as you have the free/reduced lunch percentages.

Schools like Highlands aren't on this list because they didn't have enough students in one or more categories (scores of 3, 2, or 1). 

As you might expect, most charters are at the top end of the scale, with high percentages of students at grade level.

There are two charters that show low levels of kindergarten readiness on the new IRI-  Blackfoot Community Charter, which has 52% free/reduced lunch and about 27% on grade level, and Heritage Community Charter in Caldwell, with 70% frl and 30% at grade level on the fall 2018 kindergarten IRI. Note from above  that I.T. Stoddard Elementary in Blackfoot  and a number of Caldwell schools have very low readiness levels, as well. Otherwise, the other 100 lowest grade level rates are at public schools with high levels of poverty.

The evidence is convincing to us. High quality pre-k programs at high poverty schools with low readiness rates will make a difference. We have shown it at Hawthorne and Whitney in the Boise District. Let's give it a try in a pilot!

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Here are some interesting stories from the education world.

Yesterday, voters in Arizona blocked the Governor's plan to expand the tax credit scheme he has supporting, voting 2 to 1 against Proposition 305. The measure was put on the ballot via a petition drive by Save Our Schools Arizona, a volunteer group similar to Parents and Teachers Together, the Idaho group that played a prominent role in overturning the Luna Laws in 2012.

From Derek Thompson, writing in The Atlantic comes a story about the decline of youth sports participation among lower income kids, and the relationship of the decline to club and travel leagues.

Thompson writes, quoting Tom Farrey, of Aspen's Sports and Society Program"  “Kids’ sports has seen an explosion of travel-team culture, where rich parents are writing a $3,000 check to get their kids on super teams from two counties, or two states, away...When these kids move to the travel team, you pull bodies out of the local town’s recreation league, and it sends a message [to those] who didn’t get onto that track that they don’t really have a future in the sport.” The result is a classist system: the travel-team talents and the local leftovers.

Like most superintendents, I cared a lot about test scores. Too much, it turns out, is a column written by former Camden, New Jersey Superintendent Paymon Rouhhanifard, published in Chalkbeat, in which he discusses his decision to remove school standardized test scores from the district's report card, against the wishes of his cabinet members. From the article:

"We are spending an inordinate amount of time on formative and interim assessments and test prep, because those are the behaviors we have incentivized. We are deprioritizing the sciences, the arts, and civic education, because we’ve placed most of our eggs in two baskets. We are implicitly encouraging schools to serve fewer English language learners and students with an IEP. We are spending less time on actual instruction, because that’s the system we’ve created."
Also from Chalkbeat is In most U.S. cities, neighborhoods have grown more integrated. Their schools haven’t, by Matt Barnum, in which the author details the results of a study of neighborhood and school integration segregation trends by Ryan Coughlan. The article includes a chart in which you can see the trends for 100 of the largest cities in America (Boise is not included).

And a couple of fascinating articles that are not directly tied to education:

Why the Housing Market Is Slumping Despite a Booming Economy, by Neil Irwin writing for The Upshot, shows how accelerating home prices have resulted in a slowing of the market nationwide.

"There is precedent for this, and it isn’t a happy one. In the last housing boom, new home sales peaked in July 2005, and home prices didn’t start declining until May 2006. It didn’t start to hurt the overall economy until December 2007, when the damage had spread through an overleveraged global financial system.

But that doesn’t mean this episode has to end in tears. Home prices are not nearly as out of line with incomes as they were then; speculative activity hasn’t been nearly as frothy; and consumer debt levels are considerably more measured."

Why California’s Wildfires Are So Destructive, In 5 Charts, is from 538 and was written by
By Christie Aschwanden, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Maggie Koerth-Baker and Ella Koeze. The five charts used in the article tell at least part of the statistical story behind the tragic fire season in California this year.