School star ratings appeals up sharply

Nearly 160 Idaho schools are appealing their state “star ratings” — a crucial report card that determines whether a school needs to file a plan for improving student growth and student achievement, and whether a school is struggling and needs help from the state.

The number of appeals is up considerably from previous years.

The one- to five-star ratings are Idaho’s yardstick for measuring traditional and charter schools, with the results made public annually. The next round of ratings will likely be released in early August, state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said Tuesday.

But first, the Education Department has to sift through the appeals; here’s a list of the schools that filed appeals.

About 650 schools receive star ratings; in past years, the state has generally received appeals from 75 to 100 schools. The reasons for this year’s increase are unclear, but McGrath said the state has made a push to train superintendents and principals on the appeals process, and this could be a factor.

Regardless, the stakes are high — which also may help explain why 159 schools filed appeals by Thursday’s deadline. Four-and five-star schools receive public recognition for academic excellence. On the other end of the scale, one- and two-star schools must file a school improvement plan, and they receive state assistance. Even three-star schools — considered good, according to the state’s scale — are required to write an improvement plan.

This year’s star ratings also carry more weight, since they will remain in effect for two years. In 2014, the state will field-test exams tied to the new Idaho Core Standards, a year before the exams count, and will not administer ISATs unless they are tied to graduation requirements. As a result of this change, the next round of five-star ratings will remain intact for a second year.

In essence, the appeals come down to double-checking and correcting information schools and districts file with the state. For a school to successfully appeal a star rating — and receive a higher grade from the state — the school may need to demonstrate that it had filed incorrect student data that adversely affected its overall score.

The five-star ratings rely on a variety of schoolwide and individualized student data. Schools and districts are required to file this information monthly under the Idaho System for Educational Excellence, an extensive and complicated data reporting process.

The state says the five-star ratings — and the reliance on a variety of schoolwide metrics, collected under ISEE — better measure student growth and performance. That’s why the state is using the five-star grading system to replace Adequate Yearly Progress, the accountability yardstick from the federal No Child Left Behind law. AYP is based solely on Idaho Standards Achievement Test scores.

To see your local school’s rating in 2012-13, click on Idaho Education News’ data center.



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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