Educators offer suggestions on school accountability

NAMPA — A small group of educators and parents offered several proposals Thursday night for moving beyond standardized test scores to measure school quality.

The group of 12 people attended a State Board of Education public forum devoted to a new system of school accountability that is under development in Idaho.

Idaho has been without a school accountability system since repealing the five star rating system in 2014.

As a requirement of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states need to implement accountability systems during the 2017-18 school year that meet basic federal reporting requirements — including student proficiency results on standardized tests aligned to state standards.

Education officials in Idaho want to go a step farther and create a website called a “data dashboard” that includes multiple measures of quality and achievement.

Thursday’s forum was the second in a series of seven similar events that will continue throughout the state into late October. Those who participated in Thursday’s forum included Caldwell Superintendent Shalene French and Jackie Thomason, West Ada’s chief academic officer.

Thomason is also a member of the advisory committee that offered recommendations for developing the initial version of the new accountability framework.

Several teachers, including a special education teacher, a P.E. teacher and a music teacher also attended the forum and offered numerous accountability proposals.

Much of the early discussion involved concerns that proposals tracking chronic absenteeism should be left out of the accountability system, with several teachers arguing that they have little or no control over absenteeism.

Thomason responded by acknowledging educators’ concerns and saying that her committee’s goal was to recommend a system that used multiple points of measurable data to give parents, taxpayers and government officials a “true and better quality” picture of achievement in schools.

“What I would ask you to do is think about does (absenteeism) actually have a relationship to achievement?” Thomason asked. “It does. We know that.”

Although educators suggested eliminating some of the proposed achievement and teacher quality measures, they also suggested other data points that could be added.

A Vallivue music teacher earned respectful applause after proposing that data points measuring the number and quality of performance arts, foreign language, P.E., social studies and media science courses be added to the dashboard.

She suggested state officials could measure those by tracking the number or courses offered and the frequency of student participation.

Other proposals included:

  • Class size data.
  • Calculating the ratio of students to college and career advisors.
  • Tracking the number of college credits or dual credits that high school student earn.
  • Using grade point averages as a data point.
  • Measuring parental involvement, such contact hours between parents and teachers or administrators.
  • Tracking the percent of a school’s teachers who are fully-certified, learner-ready teachers or those who have certifications to teach dual credit course.

That type of feedback is exactly the sort State Board of Education officials Tracie Bent and Blake Youde hoped to capture. However, it is too early to tell what data sets and proposals will be incorporated into the final accountability model.

Youde and Bent will play host to five more public meetings throughout the state this month and next. They will then gather feedback into a report for State Board of Education members to review before the board is scheduled to vote on approving the accountability system in November.

Anyone wishing to submit written testimony may send an email to the State Board of Education with “accountability framework” written in the subject heading.

The next forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Further reading:

  • Click here for coverage of Wednesday night’s forum in Boise.
  • Click here for the State Board of Education’s summary presentation on the new accountability model. 

Upcoming school accountability forums (all events run from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. local time):

  • Tuesday, College of Southern Idaho, Shields Academic Building, Room 118, 315 Falls Ave., Twin Falls.
  • Sept. 21, Eastern Idaho Technical College, Health Care Education Building, Room 6164, 1600 South 25th East, Idaho Falls.
  • Sept. 22, Idaho State University, Pond Student Union, Middle and South Fork Rooms, 1065 South 8th Ave., Building No. 14, Pocatello.
  • Oct. 18, Coeur d’Alene School District, Midtown Meeting Room, 1505 N. Fifth St., Coeur d’Alene.
  • Oct. 20, Lewis-Clark State College, Sacajawea Hall, Room 115, 500 Eighth Ave., Lewiston.