Wednesday, September 26, 2012

District: Star rating unfair to WRHS

School docked 2 stars because of test participation

The Blaine County School District is claiming that a new Idaho “star” school accountability system was unfair to Wood River High School, which scored high enough to receive the maximum five stars but was penalized two whole ratings because not enough disabled students took a math test.

Instead of five stars, the school only got three.

“It seems inequitable and flawed, considering that four-star schools that failed to test the required number of students dropped by only one star,” district Communications Director Heather Crocker wrote in a statement provided Tuesday to the Idaho Mountain Express.

Melissa McGrath, public information officer for the Idaho State Department of Education, explained that any school that did not meet a 95 percent student testing total in any required student group or “at-risk subgroup” automatically was dropped to three stars regardless of the overall score.

Crocker explained that of 31 tenth-graders with disabilities at Wood River, all but three took a required math test. That equates to just over 91 percent participation.

Wood River scored 85 points total, high enough to qualify for five stars under the state’s 100-point rating system.

Education Department data shows that only Eagle High School in the Meridian School District suffered a similar fate to Wood River, scoring a total of 87 points in the new system but being dropped to three stars because testing participation wasn’t high enough in the subgroup category of disabled students taking a required language test.

According to the Education Department, schools receiving four or five stars are to be recognized as examples of excellent performance, while schools receiving three or fewer stars are required to implement corrective measures.

Ratings for schools throughout Idaho were released by the Education Department on Aug. 31. The new five-star system is intended to replace an older Adequate Yearly Progress rating system under the federal “No Child Left Behind” law.

Adequate Yearly Progress ratings were based entirely on student achievement test scores to evaluate school performance, while the new star system considers not only test scores but also academic growth, graduation rates, completion of advanced-placement college courses and student scores on college entrance exams. However, student participation in the testing process is also taken into consideration.

In her statement, Crocker noted that the new star rating system is still preliminary since it has not been accepted to replace the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement system by the U.S. Department of Education.

She further noted that Jerry Hutchins, the district’s technology director, questioned the drop to three stars because of a federal requirement.

In her statement, Crocker also provided a written statement from Wood River Principal Pete Jurovich.

“We are proud that WRHS had more than sufficient scores in the four categories to make it to the five-star status and we have corrected the issue to ensure that the oversight will not happen in the future,” Jurovich stated. “This isn’t an accurate reflection of the outstanding work that the staff, students and parents perform on a daily basis at Wood River High School.

“WRHS made five-star status because of accumulated points,” Jurovich continued. “To diminish its rating and thus the view of the school in the public eye from a five-star to a three-star seems disingenuous and overly punitive.”

Terry Smith:

Data discussion

The Blaine County School District board of trustees has scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Oct. 1, to hear about testing data, results and ratings from district Superintendent Lonnie Barber and district Technology Director Jerry Hutchins. The meeting is scheduled to be held from 12-1:30 p.m. at the district office at 118 West Bullion St. in Hailey. The public is invited.

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