Lokken: State likely won’t meet 60 percent goal

Idaho is unlikely to meet its lofty go-on goal, business executive Bob Lokken told the House Education Committee Thursday.

Bob Lokken
Bob Lokken

For five years, education and government officials from Gov. Butch Otter to the State Board of Education have touted a benchmark of having 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020.

That goal is essential, supporters say, in order to prepare students for 21st Century life and to bolster the economy by filling jobs and supporting Idaho businesses.

Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is a board member for Idaho Business for Education.

Under questioning from Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, Lokken told lawmakers it might already be too late to meet the state’s flagship goal.

The issue, Lokken testified, is that the goal stipulates 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds need to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020.

He didn’t specifically make this point, but those Idahoans now range from 20 and 29 years old. They’re already out of high school, and either pursuing a college education, planning to attend college or moving on with their life. Barely 45 percent of young adults were pursuing a postsecondary education in 2013, a reason why Idaho ranked No. 47 in a recent national study published by Education Week.

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“If you look at the numbers, you would be hard-pressed to figure out (how) we’re going to get there in 2020,” Lokken said. “It truly would require some magic pill.

“That’s not to say the goal is invalid,” Lokken continued. “I don’t know if 2020 is achievable.”

Lokken, who helped lead a State Board of Education committee charged with implementing the 20 recommendations from Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, offered some advice for reaching the goal – at some point.

He stressed that focus is key, and the state should overhaul its five-star rating accountability system.

That accountability system has been placed on hold while Idaho transitions to new Common Core standards and prepares to administer the first official ISAT by Smarter Balanced assessment tests this school year.

The five-star system grades schools on several factors, including academic growth, high school graduation rates and indicators of success for college and the work force.

Lokken said that system should be scrapped and replaced with an accountability system based simply on whether students are ready for the rigor of college and a career when they leave high school.

“We’re not going to get to 60 percent with a compliance mindset,” Lokken said. “We need an achievement mindset.”

Lokken suggested a score of 500 or better on all sections of the SAT could be the indicator for high schools. For middle schools or junior highs, accountability should be based on whether students are ready to advance to high school. At the elementary level, it should be based on whether students are prepared to move on to middle school and succeed.

Ilana Rubel
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise

Lokken shared state data sets with lawmakers that suggest about 17 percent of Idaho high school students are college- or career-ready.

Democratic Boise Rep. Ilana Rubel complimented Lokken for his work on the implementation committee and his recommendations. But she worried that the state should not overemphasize results of a single college entrance exam.

“My fear is it will devolve into teaching to the test and putting schools in a situation of devolving into a Kaplan test prep center,” Rubel said. “How do we make sure we don’t lose everything else in the shuffle?”

Lokken replied that SAT results should not be the only area of emphasis for schools.

“That is not the job,” he said. “The job is to educate kids and use the SAT as a proxy to learn where we need to improve.”

Lokken will present the same report and recommendations to the Senate Education Committee later Thursday.

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