Friday, September 14, 2012

Blaine schools vary in new ratings

Silver Creek gets 5 stars, Bellevue elementary only 2


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Under a new state of Idaho school accountability rating system, Wood River High School received three stars. In comparison, Silver Creek High School, the Blaine County School Districtís alternative high school, received the maximum rating of five stars. Photo by David N. Seelig

Results for schools in Blaine County varied widely in a new accountability five-star rating system recently released by the Idaho State Department of Education.
    Only Silver Creek High School, the Blaine County School District’s alternative high school, received the maximum five stars, the highest rating under the new state system.
    Four other Blaine County schools—Carey School, Wood River Middle School, Hailey Elementary School and Hemingway Elementary School—received four stars, the second highest rating.
    Wood River High School and Woodside Elementary School received three stars each, while Bellevue Elementary School received only two.
    Rating results were released on Aug. 31 by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, who explained in a press release that the new five-star system is intended to replace an older Adequate Yearly Progress rating system that used only student achievement test scores to evaluate school performance.
    “We have been working toward a new system of increased accountability that focuses on multiple measures, including academic growth, for every child in Idaho for years,” Luna stated. “Today, we are finally able to begin moving to the five-star rating system, which is a better and more accurate way to evaluate how Idaho schools are performing academically.”
    Under the new five-star system, grades K-8 are measured on academic growth and progress as well as on Idaho Standards Achievement Test results, typically referred to as ISAT, which was the only source used to measure school performance under the Adequate Yearly Progress rating system.
    According to the press release, high schools are rated on academic growth, ISAT scores, graduation rates, completion of advanced placement college courses and student scores on college entrance exams.
    “The new five-star accountability plan will more accurately measure the academic quality of Idaho schools,” Ken Edmunds, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, stated in the press release. “We are pleased that this system was developed in Idaho with help from our own educators.”
    The Idaho State Department of Education noted in the press release that 78 schools in the state received five stars, 301 four stars, 170 three stars, 64 two stars and 35 one star.
    According to the department, schools receiving four or five stars are to be recognized for “excellent performance” and should “serve as examples to other schools.”


Wood River High School and Woodside Elementary School received three stars each.


    The department reported that schools receiving three stars are “doing a good job because most students have met the academic benchmarks set by the state.” Three-star schools will still be required to develop plans for improvement in areas where needed.
    The department reported that schools receiving one or two stars need to “focus intense time and resources to provide the support necessary to raise academic achievement and close achievement gaps in those schools.”
    In an email to the Idaho Mountain Express, Blaine County School District Communications Director Heather Crocker noted that Silver Creek High School was one of only five alternative schools in Idaho to receive a five-star rating.
    “The new measurements for secondary schools include advanced opportunities, such as dual credit and advanced placement,” Crocker wrote. “That’s a challenge for most alternative schools, but Silver Creek provides so many dual credit courses that they were able to excel in this area of the five-star system.”
    Crocker also noted that Bellevue Elementary School missed achieving three-star status by only one point on a scoring system of 1 to 100.
    “It’s surprising that a school can be as much as 7.4 percent higher than the state proficiency benchmark in reading and math and not receive a higher rating in the state’s five-star system,” Crocker wrote.
    Crocker quoted Bellevue Elementary Principal Angie Martinez as stating, “We have to balance nurturing a love of learning and education of the whole child with the expectations for student growth that the state of Idaho has with the new five-star system.”

   Regarding the overall system, Crocker wrote: “Now that we know what the measurements are, we are confident that we can focus on those areas and maintain or improve our star rating. We also know that our parents and community have higher expectations than the indicators on the ISAT tests in reading, math and language usage.
    “While those are important, in Blaine County we offer much more than that,” she added. “Our parents and community want to see students who are well-rounded, critical thinkers, intellectually curious, effective communicators, globally aware, art-literate and a myriad of other qualities that are not measured by the state’s ISATs or the star rating system but are critical for success in the 21st century.”


 

Schools in Blaine County and elsewhere in Idaho have received a new type of accountability rating from the Idaho State Department of Education. Under the new five-star rating system, with five stars being the highest, only Silver Creek High School, the Blaine County School District’s alternative high school, received the maximum five stars. As shown on the above chart, ratings varied widely for the other seven schools in the district.
Express graphic by Tony Barriatua

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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