Friday, October 19, 2012

Feds approve new school rating system

Stars in, AYP out for measuring school performance

Express Staff Writer

There’s been a lot of talk about “stars” lately in the Blaine County School District, and the topic is not likely to go away following federal approval of the Idaho State Department of Education’s new five-star school rating system.

“This is a great day for Idaho students, Idaho schools and Idaho teachers,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna stated in a press release issued Wednesday announcing approval of the five-star system by the U.S. Department of Education. “Our previous accountability system was put in place when Idaho’s seniors were in the second grade. It is a decade old and must be updated to more accurately measure student achievement now and in the future.”

The state Department of Education explained in the press release that the five-star rating system is still subject to approval by the Idaho State Board of Education. However, the state board earlier this year approved applying to the U.S. Department of Education for approval of the system.

The new five-star system would replace Adequate Yearly Progress, typically referred to as AYP, as the system in Idaho for measuring school performance. Measuring public school performance is required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

While AYP only measured student performance through annual achievement tests and graduation rates for high schools, the five-star system also takes into account individual student academic growth as measured by achievement tests from year to year. For high schools, the five-star system also considers completion of advanced placement college courses and student scores on college entrance exams.

Heather Crocker, Blaine County School District director of communications, released the following written statement on Thursday regarding federal approval of the five-star system:

“A new state system recognizing student growth is an important step forward for Blaine County and the state of Idaho. There is no doubt that longitudinal reporting of student growth is a more accurate gauge of school effectiveness than the prior formula which set one benchmark for all students.

“We appreciate the state’s efforts in looking at multiple categories that are more reflective of a school’s performance. We can now set our sights on fully understanding the state’s growth model so that our schools can set goals that help us realize five-star ratings.”

Under the new system, five stars is the highest rating a school can receive from the state Department of Education. Schools that are rated with less than four stars are required to develop plans for improvement.

The new system was first used this year in Idaho in measuring academic performance.

In ratings released in late August, only Silver Creek High School, the Blaine County School District’s alternative high school, earned five stars in the district. For the other seven district schools, Carey School, Wood River Middle School and Hailey and Hemingway elementary schools earned four stars, Wood River High School and Woodside Elementary School earned three stars and Bellevue Elementary School earned two stars.

Terry Smith:

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