Idaho gets waiver from school ranking requirement

For the second year in a row, the State Department of Education won’t be calculating “composite” scores for each school and using those scores to rank and identify the state’s lowest performing schools as it has done in years past.

The state is typically required to conduct those rankings as part of a federal accountability system. The lowest ranked schools are targeted for special help from the SDE. Composite scores are also one measure parents can evaluate as they look for the best learning environment for their children.

But the U.S. Department of Education granted Idaho a waiver from calculating composite scores in both 2020 and 2021 in light of the pandemic. The rankings require that the SDE look at multiple years of assessment data, says Kevin Whitman, the SDE’s director for accountability, and Idaho does not have standardized test data from the spring of 2020 when schools were closed during the pandemic.  Even though schools have 2021 data, the state can’t calculate metrics like year-to-year growth because of the missing 2020 tests.

“COVID created ongoing holes in the data,” Whitman said.

Since the state is off the hook for giving all schools a composite score to identify its lowest performers, the SDE won’t be compiling or publishing school rankings, Whitman said. Schools identified as low-ranking during the 2019-20 school year are still receiving the extra support they would have, if they had been identified this year, Whitman said.

The state plans to return to the composite ranking system in 2022.

As part of the waiver, Idaho is required to provide new data points to the public and federal government, including data on chronic absenteeism, and technology.  Chronic absenteeism reflects how many students missed at least 10% of the days they were enrolled in school. The state hasn’t publicly included that data point in its accountability system in the past.

The state also needs to publish whatever data it has available on student and teacher access to technology, devices and high speed internet, broken down by student groups.

Whitman didn’t have a deadline for when the additional data will be available, but said SDE staff will be working on it later this year.

Read more on how Idaho compiles school rankings here.

See Idaho’s 2019 school rankings here.

Sami Edge

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