Report: Idaho scores will drop sharply

Just 30 to 40 percent of Idaho students are expected to perform at grade level in reading and math under the new Idaho Core Standards.

That was the finding of a new report, the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Nation’s Report Card, which compares students’ performance in the fourth and eighth grades from state to state.

Tom Luna
Tom Luna

This year, Idaho State Department of Education officials, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, have been warning parents and educators to expect a drop off in assessment scores as Idaho transitions to Idaho Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. State officials said the new standards and SBAC tests are higher and more rigorous than standards Idaho used through last school year.

If the 30- and 40-percent grade level scores pan out, that would represent a steep drop off in assessment performance. For the 2012-2013 school year, 90 percent of Idaho’s K-12 students scored at or above grade level in reading when the Idaho Standards Achievement Test was administered. Likewise, 82.2 percent of the Gem State’s K-12 students scored at or above grade level in mathematics.

“It is not because our students woke up one day and were not as smart as they were the day before,” Luna said in a news release. “It is because our students are working to meet a higher bar, learning at a higher level, and that is a good thing for every child and for their future.”

A closer look at the findings from the Nation’s Report Card:

  • Nationwide, 42 percent of fourth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, compared to 40 percent of Idaho fourth-graders.
  • Nationally, 35 percent of fourth-graders score at or above proficient in reading, versus 33 percent of Idaho fourth-graders.
  • Across the country, 35 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficient in math, while Idaho eight-graders scored slightly better at 36 percent,
  • Finally, 38 percent of Idaho eighth-graders scored at or above proficient in reading, versus 36 percent of the eighth grade students nationwide.

Idaho students won’t be tested against the Idaho Core Standards, which are being taught statewide for the first time this school year, until next school year. In the spring of 2015, Idaho students will take the SBAC test, which is aligned to the core standards and replaces the ISAT.

At the end of this year, however, Idaho students will participate in a pilot program – or field test version – of the SBAC tests a year before it counts.

“This data provides a good indicator for us to show parents, students, teachers and the public how Idaho students might perform when first measured against the higher, more rigorous Idaho Core Standards in 2015,” Luna said.

Members of the House and Senate education committees adopted Idaho Core Standards in 2011 and the Idaho State Board of Education also approved the standards.

Idaho Core StandardsThis year, a debate over the standards flared up. During that time, a coalition of educators and business leaders formed to support the standards and their implementation.

Meanwhile, some legislators and administrators oppose the standards, as do some groups of parents and citizens.

In August, members of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education by a wide margin adopted a recommendation to support Idaho Core Standards. Only one Task Force member, Madison School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas, voted against supporting Idaho Core Standards.

A complete look at the Nation’s Report Card’s findings is available online.