Education subcommittee ready to push back against feds

A State Board of Education subcommittee is ready to push back against a potential federal education reporting requirement.

And this same committee is pushing back against requiring all high school students to take a college-entrance exam.

In conjunction with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the replacement to the No Child Left Behind law — the feds are considering several school accountability policies. One proposal would require states to assign a comprehensive, summative rating for each school, providing a clear picture of a school’s overall standing, said Allison Henken, the State Board’s K-12 accountability and projects program manager.

Pete Koehler 2
Pete Koehler

That possibility did not sit well with the board’s Accountability and Oversight Committee, which met for nearly six hours Monday. It especially upset Pete Koehler, the deputy for Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.

Koehler called summative ratings an apples-to-oranges comparison that places poorer schools alongside wealthy schools.

“That’s the very thing we wanted to avoid doing,” Koehler said.

Idaho doesn’t have a formal school accountability system, and hasn’t had one since 2013-14. Under Tom Luna, Ybarra’s predecessor, state education officials “pushed the pause button” on accountability. As the state adopted Idaho Core Standards and new assessments, they said, there was no way to measure academic growth.

State leaders want to replace Luna’s five-star system with a data “dashboard.” The dashboard would provide several school quality and academic performance metrics.

An overall summative rating would revive the state’s old, flawed accountability model, Koehler said. “The superintendent will not support returning to the old system where we are all the same.”

The board’s Accountability and Oversight Committee then unanimously recommended proceeding with the dashboard model.

“What we want is a multi-faceted system that is fair,” State Board member Linda Clark said. “Fairness is what was lacking in the previous system.”

The State Board is expected to consider the recommendation in August. The new proposed ESSA guidelines are still in the development phase, and likely won’t be finalized until this fall or winter.

High school testing

The Accountability and Oversight Committee took the first step to drop Idaho’s college-entrance exam requirement. The committee recommended requiring high school juniors to complete only the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

High school students are now required to take a college entrance exam in order to graduate. The state pays for all high school juniors to take the SAT on the state’s dime — at a cost of about $1 million.

The committee cited concerns about test fatigue. Meanwhile, many Idaho students no longer need to complete the ACT or SAT, said Clark, the former superintendent of the West Ada School District. These students are now admitted through direct in-state admission policies based on grade-point averages.

That college-entrance exam recommendation also must go to the full State Board  for consideration and action.

Ironically, the state is scheduled to release this year’s SAT scores Tuesday.