Campaign data does not reflect what is happening in our schools

In recent weeks, many of your readers may have seen an advertisement presented by the “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign which dramatically drops four Idaho students in the middle of the desert and leaves them there with one student left on the bus, forlornly waving to those that were “left behind.” The claim of this advertisement is that four out of five students are not prepared for life after high school.

As superintendents of many schools in this area, we feel it is important to defend our districts against a blatant attempt to undermine support for the public school system that serves this area. The “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign and its parent organization, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, have based their claims on SAT data which is a predictor of a student’s performance in the first semester of their first year in a four-year institution. This data is tremendously narrow and does not reflect what is happening in our schools and with our students.

Marc Gee, Preston
Marc Gee is the superintendent for the Preston School District and one of 13 East Idaho superintendents who signed this opinion piece.

Our students leave our high school campuses and embark on multiple career and college paths. Some choose junior colleges. Some choose two-year technology programs. Some attend technical schools and academies. Some start their own businesses or attend management schools. The SAT has no predictive power for these viable avenues. Those that choose a four-year university may be subject to those national statistics, but we teach our students that they can beat those odds every day, and they do.

In just the first semester of the 2015-2016 school year, 10 of our high schools had 1,082 students enrolled in dual credit courses through Idaho State University earning 3,577 credits in that time. That is only a portion of what we offer our students. We also offer courses from CSI, CWI, BSU, and U of I, not to mention the AP and professional technical certificate bearing courses. In addition, according to the NAEP (the nation’s report card), Idaho ranks higher than 22 other states in math and reading for 2015.

Is there room for improvement in our schools? Certainly. We embrace that challenge and continue in our commitment to improve our schools and the experience that our students gain while attending. While we recognize the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and its dedication to helping students in Idaho succeed, we ask that the foundation ceases this divisive campaign and support Idaho’s students in a way that does not cut down the very teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators who have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of the students in Idaho. Growth and economic development in Idaho is dependent upon all of us working together. We ask that the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation work with us in our efforts to educate all students.

If the “Don’t Fail Idaho” organization continues to drop those students in the desert, rest assured that our districts will pick up those remaining students and place them at the doorstep of their pathway to a successful future.

This opinion piece was signed by the following:

Marc Gee, superintendent, Preston School District
Spencer Barzee, superintendent, West Side School District
Molly Stein, superintendent, Soda Springs School District
Chester Bradshaw, superintendent, Rockland School District
Marvin Hansen, superintendent, Marsh Valley School District
Jamie Holyoak, superintendent, Grace School District
Gary Brogan, superintendent, Bear Lake School District
Dave Risenmay, superintendent, Oneida School District
Jane Ward, superintendent, Aberdeen School District
Eric Lords, superintendent, ShoBan School District
David Kearns, superintendent, Snake River School District
Ron Bollinger, superintendent, American Falls School District
Doug Howell, superintendent, Pocatello Chubbuck School District