Why is Idaho at risk?

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation released a new report titled “Idaho at Risk” to Idaho legislators and education stakeholders. This research report regarding educational attainment is grounded in our commitment to making Idaho a state where citizens learn, thrive and prosper. We know data is often viewed as imperfect; however, there are key indicators worth sharing in pursuit of meaningful improvements for Idahoans, especially students and their educational experience.

Roger Quarles

The report shares realities about Idaho’s current and future landscape of educational attainment and economic mobility. We hope this data encourages candid and necessary conversations regarding what citizens want for the future of Idaho. Now is the time for leadership and accountability to create meaningful progress toward tackling complex issues.

Over the last four years through our initiative work, we had one-on-one conversations with over 14,000 high school students statewide. Some disturbing themes have arisen out of this work. There is a growing sense of hopelessness and fear about their futures, and an overwhelming lack of engagement in daily school life. Gallup, the largest public polling agency, identified hope and engagement as better predictors of post-secondary success than standardized test scores. The indicators in the Idaho at Risk report support the reality that the current antiquated education system comes up short when preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges and many of our students are disenfranchised.

Identifying a starting point for improvement can be argued and often leads to stagnation. Despite good intentions from leaders, educational professionals and communities, Idaho still lags the country in most educational and economic indicators. As a follow up to this report, we will publish an annual report card tracking progress on key educational indicators. This may be criticized as an inaccurate reflection of individual schools, a tool to assign blame or of having a hidden agenda. Rather, it should be used as one important measurement as to whether those collectively responsible for the education of our youth and the oversight of $1.8B in taxpayer dollars are making necessary gains. Without accountability, Idaho will continue muddling along a path of mediocrity and it will be our youth who suffer the most.

We are hopeful new leadership will convey a bold vision to making Idaho’s educational system the best in the country: One which includes a clear strategy and accountability in meeting expected outcomes. This is far more ambitious and comprehensive than priority statements, task force recommendations, or surface initiatives where results are the same. In this regard, the report shares six considerations aligned with research-based best practices.

We know Idahoans are fiercely independent citizens with perseverance and grit and believe in hard work. It’s time we ask our leaders for that same commitment. Identifying priorities is one thing, developing a path forward and being held accountable to the results of that plan, will be something new. Anything short will continue to leave Idaho at risk.

Visit www.idahoatrisk.com to learn more about the report and see the six considerations we’re posing to Idaho’s leaders.

Written by Roger Quarles, the executive director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News is funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

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