East Idaho school labeled both high and low performing

(UPDATED, 10:55 a.m., Sept. 19 with Bingham Academy’s 2018 math proficiency percentage.) 

BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot-based Bingham Academy was named one of Idaho’s top-performing high schools just months after it was sanctioned because of low academic performance.

The State Department of Education last month announced Idaho’s 44 top-performing high schools. Bingham Academy, a 4-year-old charter school of some 100 students, made the list.

In May, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission imposed a range of academic sanctions, or improvement “conditions,” on 13 public charters.  Bingham Academy also made this list.

The SDE and the charter commission use different selection criteria to evaluate and label schools as successful or needing improvement.

State says Bingham Academy is a ‘top performer’

The SDE’s list of top-performing high schools includes those that scored in the 90th percentile in at least one of four performance categories:

  • Standardized tests in English or math.
  • High school graduation rates.
  • Participation in advanced opportunities.
  • Growth in English language proficiency.

Bingham Academy gained recognition as a top-performer for participation in advanced opportunities, according to an SDE breakdown. The state honored 20 other schools in this same category.

The SDE defines advanced opportunities as “dual credit, technical-competency credit, advanced placement, and international baccalaureate programs.”

Bingham Academy did not respond to multiple requests from Idaho Education News to discuss the school’s advanced-opportunities program.

Charter commission says Bingham Academy is a ‘low performer’

Idaho law allows state charter school authorizers, including the PCSC, to renew charters with “specific, written conditions for necessary improvements.” In February 2017, the commission imposed its first round of “renewal conditions” on seven PCSC charters, including Bingham Academy.

Officials flagged three areas of improvement at the school:

  • Low ISAT math scores. In 2017, 19 percent of Bingham Academy students achieved proficient scores on the math portion of the exam. The state average among high schoolers for this same year was 32 percent. The PCSC said 30 percent of Bingham Academy students must reach math proficiency by June 30, 2019. SDE data show the school’s proficiency rate jumped to 33 percent last school year.
  • ISAT ELA and science proficiencies. The school must continue to either meet or exceed state averages in both of these areas. In 2017, 59 percent of Bingham Academy students achieved proficient on the ELA portion of the test, which mirrored the state average. Due to state redactions, it’s unclear how many Bingham Academy students achieved proficient or better on the science portion of the test.
  • STEM certification. By June 30, 2019, Bingham Academy must obtain STEM certification, “either as a program or as a school.” Last month, the school announced on its Facebook page that it is currently seeking this certification.

The PCSC’s 2017 performance report outlines criteria used for imposing renewal conditions. Twenty PCSC charters require either academic “remediation” or “critical” academic intervention due to low standardized test scores, low high school graduation rates or lagging student growth.

Schools operating in these categories “may be renewed, conditionally renewed, or non-renewed, depending on the specifics of their situations,” PCSC director Tamara Baysinger said in May.

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