State Board approves new school accountability model

Members of the State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Thursday to the first accountability system to govern Idaho schools in years.

Board members unanimously endorsed the new accountability framework, which is still under development and would be tested out during the upcoming 2016-17 school year.

The new accountability model would be designed to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and be scheduled to take affect during the 2017-18 school year.

Idaho has not had a school accountability model in place since 2014, during the administration of previous Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.

Under Luna’s watch, state officials repealed the controversial Five Star Rating system as Idaho transitioned to new academic standards in English and math.

The new system would be designed to feature multiple measures of academic and school quality, and get away from lumping all schools together for accountability purposes.

“The greatest criticism of the previous accountability system was a school’s rating was solely representative of a student’s score on a single test given on a single day,” board member Linda Clark said.

The new system would break schools into three levels:

  • Kindergarten through eighth grade schools.
  • High schools.
  • Alternative high schools.

Board members backed a plan to post on online data dashboard for each school that would be accessible to all parents, students, taxpayers and policy makers.

The dashboard is still under development, but several factors are likely to be included.

At the high school level, the accountability dashboard could include:

  • Proficiency rates on state assessment tests.
  • Four-year graduation rates.
  • English Language Learners’ growth in assessment tests.
  • Go-on rates.
  • Percentages of students with at least a 3.0 grade point average.
  • Teacher certification and attendance data.

At the K-8 level, the dashboard could include:

  • Proficiency rates on assessment tests.
  • Growth rates on assessment tests.
  • Students’ readiness to move on to the next grade level.
  • Chronic absenteeism and more.

At the alternative high school level, the system could track:

  • Proficiency rates on assessments.
  • Four-year graduation rates.
  • Extended-year graduation rates.
  • Credit recovery and accumulation.
  • Student engagement measures.
  • Class size ratios and more.

The accountability system framework is based on recommendations developed by the Accountability Oversight Committee, which was established in 2010.

Clark, board member Debbie Critchfield, Chief Deputy State Superintendent Pete Koehler and former Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde were among those who served on the oversight committee.

“(In order to create the accountability model) we worked backwards, (asking) what’s the outcome we want to have and what is going to make the most sense for our schools and for our students and for our parents,” Critchfield said.

Ybarra-previews-new-education-laws
Sherri Ybarra

At one point during Thursday’s meeting, deep divisions between Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and fellow board members emerged. Ybarra warned several times that she would not support the accountability system because it called for moving high school assessment test requirements from 10th grade to 11th grade.

Ybarra also bristled at the suggestion of making college entrance exams optional. Today, the state pays for all 11th graders to take the SAT test, but Ybarra warned that it would be unacceptable to require those students to take the Smarter Balanced SBAC assessment tests and a college entrance exam in the same academic year. Ybarra has also backed moving from the SAT to the ACT.

“We are in an over-testing frenzy,” Ybarra said.

In the end, board members agreed to hold off on decisions regarding testing requirements and timelines until the spring. Ybarra then agreed to vote in favor of the accountability system.

Under the state’s current timeline, Idaho schools will continue to go without an accountability model until the third year of Ybarra’s four-year term. Ybarra was elected in November 2015. Last year, she said she would seek re-election in 2018.

State Board of Education officials are expected to open a 30-day public comment window regarding the accountability model, potentially in September. The accountability model would then return to the State Board of Education one more time before being forwarded on to the Idaho Legislature for final consideration as an administrative rule.

This week’s State Board of Education meeting took place in Pocatello on Idaho State University’s campus and was streamed online for the public.

In other action Thursday:

  • Board members voted unanimously to waive a requirement that would have forced high school students to earn a “proficient” score on assessment tests in order to graduate.
  • Andrew Scoggin
    Andrew Scoggin

    New board member Andrew Scoggin participated in his first meeting and cast votes in favor of the new accountability system. Throughout the meeting he asked several questions about student testing requirements and advantages of the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. Last week, Gov. Butch Otter appointed Scoggin to a vacancy created when previous board member Bill Goesling’s term expired in June. Scoggin is vice president of human resources, labor relations, public relations and government affairs for Albertson Companies. Scoggin’s five-year term expires in 2021, and is subject to Senate confirmation during the 2017 legislative session.