A graphic approach to grading schools

Parents and taxpayers have nagging and fair questions about their schools, says state schools superintendent Tom Luna.

For example, how does classroom performance correlate with spending?

Within a couple of weeks, stakeholders may be able to go online and chart the answers for themselves.

Luna hopes to expand the state’s “Fiscal Report Card” to allow users to track spending  — and performance — at the state’s public and charter schools.

The idea is akin to the X- and Y-axis charts from the math classes of your youth. On the X axis (the left-to-right line, remember?), you will be able to chart school performance or student growth. On the Y axis (the up-or-down line), you could chart revenues, average teacher or administrator salaries, or teacher and administrator experience.

Luna has shown the new site to some district superintendents, and he wants all the superintendents to see it before it goes live. “I want them to be comfortable with what it is,” he told Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee members Thursday. “I think it’s a fascinating source of data.”

Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, said his area school officials have concerns about how much time it takes to provide data for the state’s database – known as the Idaho System for Educational Excellence, or ISEE. Luna said he is aware of the concerns — and his 2013-14 budget continues a $2.5 million line item for district IT staffing.