Special Report


January 04, 2005 4 min read
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Standards and Accountability: Idaho strengthened its grade this year by including an extended-response component in its English assessments at the elementary and middle school levels.

The state continues to have a strong foundation with its clear and specific standards for what students should know and be able to do. At the elementary, middle, and high school levels, state standards are clear and specific in English, mathematics, and science. Such standards exist for social studies/history at the middle school level only.

Idaho administers tests aligned to its standards in English and math in all grade spans. But its lack of aligned assessments in science and social studies/history reduces its grade. The state uses multiple-choice questions to gauge students’ knowledge from elementary school through high school. Elementary and middle school tests also include short-answer and extended-response items.

The state includes test data on school report cards and assigns ratings to schools based partly on test results. But the state does not provide help to both Title I and non-Title I schools rated low-performing. It does impose sanctions on all schools, including non-Title I schools, that are consistently deemed low-performing or failing. Idaho does not provide rewards to high-performing or improving schools.

Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Idaho requires high school teachers to obtain a subject-area major and a minor for endorsement in two content areas. Applicants for the state’s Teacher-Trainee alternative-route program must meet the same coursework requirements.

Moreover, this school year marks the first time that all high school teachers in the state must pass the Educational Testing Service’s Praxis II tests in their subject areas as an initial certification requirement. However, middle school teachers with K-8 teaching certificates may pass an elementary-content test instead of subject-specific exams. That leeway hurts the state’s grade. The state also does not require performance assessments for evaluating teachers already in the classroom.

The state’s less-than-impressive efforts to provide support and training for teachers in the classroom also lower its grade. The state requires all districts to provide three years of mentoring for novice teachers, but the legislature in 2003 eliminated financing for that mentoring and for professional development. The state fails to require schools or districts to set aside time for professional development.

And while Idaho plans to report teacher-qualification data on its next round of report cards, the current school report cards lack the teacher information tracked by Education Week.

School Climate: The state does just above average on indicators related to student engagement. Background data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that Idaho students are more likely than their peers nationally to attend schools where absenteeism, classroom misbehavior, and tardiness are not problems or are only minor problems.

Idaho is one of only 17 states that seek information from students, parents, or teachers about their schools.

But the state loses points because school report cards do not include information about school safety, parent involvement, or class size. The state also does not have a class-size-reduction effort or a system for tracking the condition of all school facilities.

Equity: Idaho receives one of the lowest grades for distributing resources to schools equitably. It ranks 47th among the 50 states for its wealth-neutrality score, suggesting that a district’s state and local revenue is closely tied to its property wealth. The state also has a high coefficient of variation, indicating a relatively wide spread in education spending across school districts. The state ranks 41st among the 50 states on the McLoone Index, which compares the total amount spent on students in districts below the median with the amount that would be needed to ensure all districts spent at least at the median.

Spending: Even with a 5 percent increase in funding from the previous year, Idaho ranks near the bottom of the states, with $6,532 in per-pupil expenditures for the 2001-02 school year. About 33 percent of students in the state reside in districts spending at or above the national average. The state ranks 45th on the spending index, which considers both how many students are in districts spending at or above the national average and how far others fall below the average compared with other states and the District of Columbia. Idaho ranks second in the nation for its average annual rate of change in spending over the past decade. It increased spending an average of 3.3 percent a year, after adjusting for inflation. The state spends 4.1 percent of its total taxable resources on education, which is above the national average. Idaho ranks 17th among the 50 states on this indicator.


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