Friday, October 12, 2012

School District wants more stars

Plans being prepared per state rating requirements

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District isn’t satisfied with the ratings that some of its schools received in the Idaho State Department of Education’s new “star” rating system for measuring student academic performance.

“I believe that all of our schools in our district are four- or five-star rated schools,” board Chair Steve Guthrie said at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

Under the new system, five stars is the highest rating a school could receive. In ratings for the district’s eight schools released in late August, Silver Creek High School received five stars and Carey School, Hailey Elementary School, Hemingway Elementary School and Wood River Middle School received four stars each. Wood River High School and Woodside Elementary School received three stars apiece while Bellevue Elementary School received two stars.

Schools that receive less than four stars are required to develop improvement plans.

In the new system, ratings are based upon academic performance and year-to-year individual student academic growth as measured by Idaho Standards Achievement Tests. High schools are also rated on graduation rates, completion of advanced placement college courses and student scores on college entrance exams.

The State Department of Education intends that the star rating system replace an older federal Adequate Yearly Progress rating system, but the U.S. Department of Education has not approved the star system as a way to measure academic performance.

District Superintendent Lonnie Barber said school administrators throughout Idaho are “still scratching their heads” over a complicated mathematical formula used by the state to arrive at the star ratings.

“They were building the airplane while it was flying and we didn’t even know the criteria we were working to,” Barber said. “That’s the problem.”

Barber said the State Department of Education has been vague about how improvement plans need to be developed, and even cancelled indefinitely a series of online seminars regarding the plans that was scheduled for later this month.

“It’s a perfect example of what we’re up against, and that guidance has been cancelled by the state,” he said.

Nonetheless, Barber said principals at all the district’s schools are working on plans to either maintain four- or five-star ratings or to improve to that level.

“Our goal is to have eight schools that are four or five,” he said. “We believe that when the state, if the state, can tell us what rules we’re operating under, then we can get there.”

Terry Smith:

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