Schools’ star ratings show improvement

Idaho’s constellation of five-star schools — the highest-rated public schools in the state — increased in 2012-13.

And the number of struggling schools decreased as well.

These are the highlights from the new round of  five-star ratings, the state’s yardstick for measuring traditional and charter schools.

Idaho Education News’ Data Center includes a school-by-school rundown of the latest rankings.

Here’s the statewide breakdown, released Thursday:




Five stars 78 91
Four stars 301 294
Three stars 170 175
Two stars 64 66
One star 35 22
Total 648 648


“These most recent results not only show that a majority of Idaho schools are high-performing but also that a vast majority of Idaho students are performing at or above grade level in reading and mathematics,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said in a news release. “Our students are ready for the higher expectations we are moving toward next year, and I am eager to see the progress they will make as we continue to raise the bar in education.”

Scores showed improvement virtually across the board:

  • Fourteen percent of the state’s schools now have a five-star rating.
  • Only 3.4 percent of schools have a one-star rating.
  • In all, 158 schools saw their star ratings improve from 2011-12. Ratings dropped in 139 schools. The remainder — the 341 schools rated in 2011-12 and 2012-13 — stayed put.

And one school — Kinport Academy, an alternative middle school in Pocatello — achieved an unlikely turnaround. It went from one star to five stars in a single year.

What the scores say about students

The state uses a variety of metrics to measure student growth and performance, and ultimately calculate the ratings issued Thursday.

The Education Department released statewide numbers on one of the yardsticks: student proficiency.

Statewide, the vast majority of students received “advanced” or “proficient” scores in all academic disciplines. Scores improved slightly in reading and math, and dropped slightly in language usage.

Here’s the statewide breakdown for advanced or proficient scores, by subject:




Reading 89.8 percent 90 percent
Mathematics 81.7 percent 82.2 percent
Language usage 78.0 percent 77.1 percent


However, student proficiency makes up only 25 percent of a school’s grade. For the remaining 75 percent, schools are graded on academic growth — within the student population as a whole, and within subgroups such as Latino and Native American populations, limited English proficiency students and special education students.

What the scores mean for schools

For schools, the star ratings are a high-stakes test of sorts. Four- and five-star schools are lauded for academic excellence. Three-star schools are considered good, according to the rating system, but still are required to file an improvement plan with the state. One- and two-star schools also must write improvement plans, and receive state help in carrying out their plans.

And this year’s ratings have added weight, because they will remain in effect for two years instead of one. This spring, schools will field test assessments tied to the new Idaho Core Standards — a year before the results will actually count. During this transition to Common Core, the Education Department decided to keep the 2013 star ratings in place for a second year.

The star ratings were released after a busy appeals process. In all, 159 schools appealed their preliminary scores — nearly a fourth of the schools receiving star ratings, and a significant increase from previous years’ appeals. The vast majority of these appeals were successful, Education Department spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said Thursday. However, it’s unclear how many schools received enough of a scoring bump to actually improve their star ratings.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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