More straight answers and facts, less acrimony

Like Wayne Hoffman, I think “straight answers and facts regarding how well — or how poorly — Idaho’s schools are doing so that we are all armed with the knowledge we need to get the best results possible for our kids.”  We agree, but for different reasons.

Hoffman borrowed from boilerplate promoting the “school reform” agenda. Since NCLB came on the scene, school reformers seeking public money for private education or for corporate profit centers have capitalized on confusion generated via the federal government’s TWO DEFINITIONS of “proficient.” Reformers demanded that NAEP’s percent proficient metric (only A’s) be use for accountability. As required by NCLB, however, states reported ISAT percent at grade level or above (C’s, B’s and A’s), which correlated with NAEP’s percent basic metric.

 Of course, reformers attacked (and are still attacking) public K-12 schools claiming that Idaho’s education officials were in a race to the bottom, dumbing down their state tests, lying to parents and patrons in order to hide their failing schools, etc. &  etc.

 Idaho adopted the SBAC test to replace the ISAT it used to meet NCLB requirements. SBAC developed its achievement levels to match as closely as possible NAEP’s achievement levels.  Idaho’s new ISAT percent proficient metric were live in 2015.

 In 2013, my voice entitled “Use grades to understand NAEP” appeared in IdahoEdNews.org. I said, “One thing for sure, misreporting student achievement data is not going to help anyone make informed decisions about K-12 education in Idaho.”

 I do not think the “Idaho ESSA accountability plan” accurately portrays student achievement in Idaho public schools.  The SDE can report ISAT results using four achievement levels, namely, below basic (“D” or lower), basic (“C” and “B”), proficient (“A”), and advanced (“A+”). However, only the “percent proficient and above” was used in the ESSA accountability plan.  It seems in Idaho that only “A” students count. The achievement of all other students does not count for anything.

 It cannot be overstressed that recently Idaho schools were ranked from “high performing” to “low performing” on ESSA mathematics and English language arts indicators based on ONLY the percentages of “A” students in the school. The school with the highest percentage of “A” students “succeeded,” while the school with the lowest percentage of “A” students “failed.”

 Some think that Idaho was required to use the percent proficient metric to get its ESSA accountability plan approved, but that is not the case.  A personal communication from the Assessment Team Lead, Office of State Support (OSS), US Department of Education, acknowledged, “several States (Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont, and California) are using scale scores as opposed to a percent proficient metric in their academic achievement indicator.”

 The severely limited use of ISAT data for the ESSA academic achievement indicator is a clear case of misreporting student achievement data.  It will not be helping anyone make an informed decision about improving the education of all students in Idaho’s public schools.

Written by Bert Stoneberg of K-12 Research Idaho. 

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