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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 4 - 10, 2002


Idaho schools score above national average

Express Staff Writer

A new report card on the state’s education system shows Idaho schools are performing above the national average, with nearly every grade level beating national scores for reading and math. Blaine County’s Standard Testing Results are even with, if not better than, the rest of the State of Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Education released the numbers two weeks ago.

Federal education legislation requires states to produce reports on the academic performance of students in reading and math, graduation rates, and information on the professional qualifications of teachers. The first reports are based on information from the 2001-2002 school year.

The report card offers a record of improvement for Idaho’s financially struggling schools, though the majority of scores have only changed a point or two over the past three years.

The report also showed Idaho students are performing well in reading and math when compared to their counterparts nationwide. Nearly every grade level from 3 to 11 performed above the national average.

The number of Idaho students graduating increased one point per year since 1999. The graduation rate for the class of 2001 was 77 percent. A 2002 national study showed that only 12 states had a higher graduation rate than Idaho.

Blaine County’s graduation rate for the class of 2001 was even higher at 84 percent. And the dropout rate was 4 percent lower in Blaine County than in the rest of Idaho.

"The low dropout rate I credit to the counselors, the Alternative School and the flexible scheduling," said Superintendent of Blaine County School District Jim Lewis. "The trimester schedule allows 60 opportunities to get 48 required credits."

Idaho’s fourth graders—the only grade to fall below the national median math score, scoring in the 49th percentile—still increased scores in both math and reading categories by 2 percentage points each.

Less than 2 percent of Idaho’s teachers are teaching outside of their area of expertise, according to the report. However, all teachers in Blaine County teach the classes for which they were hired.

"We really put special emphasis on recruiting the best we can," Lewis said. "We have a team to recruit and we take it very seriously. One of the most important jobs is to hire the best people to start with."

The report also stated that the number of schools failing to meet state standards is dropping. Only 80 schools designated as serving low-income students failed to meet the learning standard last year, down from 88 failing schools during the 2000-2001 school year. The designation frees students to attend other schools in the district under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which President Bush signed in January.

Idaho has 672 schools, and 420 of them are designated as serving low-income students.

The report card represents a change in the way school scores are presented and will serve as a prototype for future efforts, said Superintendent of Idaho Public Instruction, Marilyn Howard.

"In Idaho, we have reported this information for years as it becomes available. The law now requires that specific information be packaged and reported together in one report," Howard said.

The reports will continue to evolve, she said, as results from new state tests are added and the federal government modifies reporting requirements.


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