School accountability forums kick off this week

Idaho education officials are seeking help in looking beyond test scores to determine how to successfully measure quality schools.

How should educators accurately measure student engagement?

How can you track teacher quality?

The State Board of Education will seek answers to those questions, and others, as it kicks off a series of public forums designed to help devise a new system of public school accountability.

After a Wednesday forum in Boise, another forum takes place Thursday in Nampa. Hearings will continue into late October, across the state.

The forums are an important way for educators, taxpayers and parents to learn about — and to provide suggestions for — a new accountability system.

“This is our opportunity to make it an Idaho-based system,” State Board of Education spokesman Blake Youde said.

During each forum, board officials will provide an overview of the proposed new model. They will accept public comments and written testimony, which the board will review before taking further action.

Idaho has been without a statewide accountability system since 2014, when it repealed its controversial five-star rating system.

The new system comes in conjunction with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law passed last year.

Last month, the State Board granted preliminary approval to a proposed accountability system that breaks schools down into three levels: kindergarten through eighth grade schools, high schools and alternative schools.

The system is also expected to incorporate a “data dashboard” that presents several academic and school quality indicators for each school.

Those indicators will include student testing proficiency rates, graduation rates, students’ readiness to advance to the next step in their academic careers, grade point average benchmarks, teacher quality indicators and more.

Despite the initial approval, several aspects of the dashboard are still being developed — including the teacher quality index and the index measuring student readiness. The model will be tested during the 2016-17 school year.

Youde hopes the public will be able to offer suggestions during the upcoming forums.

“Some of the important things to us, especially, are the school quality indicators, because those are not measured by your traditional ISAT (standardized test results) or anything like that,” he said. “They are going to take more effort to really develop something we think is measurable.”

Following the public comment period and public forums, the State Board will vote again on the model in November. If the board approves it, the model will go to the Legislature’s education committees, in the form of an administrative rule.

If approved, the model would launch in 2017-18.

Public forum schedule (all events run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., local time):

  • Wednesday: Boise School District, 8169 W. Victory Road.
  • Thursday: Ridgevue High School, college lecture hall, 118800 Madison Road, Nampa.
  • Sept. 13: College of Southern Idaho, Shields Academic Building, Room 118, Twin Falls.
  • Sept. 21: Eastern Idaho Technical College, Heath Care Education Building, Room 6164, 1600 S. 25th East, Idaho Falls.
  • Sept. 22: Idaho State University, Pond Student Union, Middle/South Fork rooms, 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.