Going beyond data to measure school success

August 20, 2018

The weeks leading up to the start of a new school year generally produce a flurry of activity from maintenance putting the final touches on a summer’s worth of projects to administrators and teachers returning to their buildings and classrooms in preparation for their first hopeful learners.

This past week was no exception at Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25. Across the district, we welcomed new teachers, finished up Kindergarten Boot Camp, hosted schedule pickup in our middle schools and high schools, and attended a professional development workshop for our K-12 leadership teams to expand our district-wide commitment to Visible Learning.

Visible Learning is at the core of our mission to Think More. Learn More. Be More. Together. As our building leadership teams (BLT) engaged with presenter Michael McDowell, there was a palpable air of excitement in the conference room. It’s inspiring to see our teachers and our administrators experience the same kind of breakthroughs in learning that they expect their learners to experience throughout the school year.

That same Wednesday found members of our leadership team racing to sort through data and prepare information for public release in anticipation of the State Board of Education unveiling its new accountability system. Some of the information released was good news for our district. Some of it was not.

According to a press release by the Idaho Department of Education, the accountability system, which was developed by the Idaho State Department of Education and State Board of Education, was designed to identify for support low achieving schools or schools whose graduation rates are below 67 percent; recognize schools for top performance and reaching goals; and provide Idahoans a dashboard of key performance indicators.

The results of the state’s new accountability system for District 25 are as follows:

Top Performing

Top Performing schools are school who are in the 90th or above used in the composite score. PCSD 25 schools identified as top performing include:

K-8 English Language Arts (ELA) – Franklin Middle School, Edahow Elementary School and Ellis Elementary School.

K-8 Math: Ellis Elementary School.

K-8 ELA Growth: Franklin Middle School and Ellis Elementary School.

K-8 Engagement: Greenacres Elementary School, Chubbuck Elementary School, Wilcox Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School.

Goal Makers

Goal maker schools are schools who are meeting or exceeding the state’s interim target to increase proficiency, graduation and English Language proficiency. PCSD 25 schools recognized as goal makers include:

High School English Language Arts (ELA): Pocatello High School, Highland High School and Century High School.

High School Graduation: Pocatello High School, Highland High School and Century High School.

High School English Language Growth: Century High School.

K-8 English Language Arts (ELA): Franklin Middle School, Irving Middle School, Alameda Middle School, Edahow Elementary, Indian Hills Elementary School, Chubbuck Elementary School, Gate City Elementary School, Ellis Elementary School, Syringa Elementary School, Wilcox Elementary School and Tendoy Elementary School.

K-8 Math: Franklin Middle School, Hawthorne Middle School, Irving Middle School, Alameda Middle School, Edahow Elementary School, Greenacres Elementary School, Indian Hills Elementary School, Chubbuck Elementary School, Gate City Elementary School, Ellis Elementary School, Tyhee Elementary School, Syringa Elementary School, Wilcox Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, Tendoy Elementary School and Lewis & Clark Elementary School.

K-8 English Language Growth: Wilcox Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School and Lewis & Clark Elementary School.

We are proud of these achievements as they show our focus on the best practices that have the greatest impact on the growth of our learners. This positive recognition acknowledges our district’s progress as our learners continue to strive to reach important milestones and achieve success.

On the flip side, two of our schools were also identified to receive support under the state’s new Comprehensive Support and Improvement designations:

Comprehensive Support and Improvement Underperforming

CSI Up are schools that will be receiving additional state support to enhance student achievement. Twenty two K-8 Idaho schools were identified for this support, including Kinport Academy, a program located at PCSD 25’s New Horizon Center.

Comprehensive Support and Improvement Graduation

CSI Grad schools are high schools who will receive additional state support to increase their graduation percentages. A rate lower than 67 percent qualifies a school for CSI Grad. What is interesting to note is that 37 of the 46 high schools, including New Horizon High School, identified in the CSI Grad category are alternative schools, which totals nearly 77 percent.

This designation was anticipated by District leadership, specifically in light of the unique learner populations served at both Kinport Academy and New Horizon High School. Kinport Academy provides wrap-around support for our District’s most at-risk middle school learners. On average, Kinport serves 30 learners annually (and often as few as five learners at a time).

The primary goal of the short-term program is to provide the behavior support and skill-building necessary to return learners to their neighborhood middle schools as soon as possible. The program connects parent, learner and school to a variety of support services from the broader community.

The goal for New Horizon High School is to successfully graduate learners. Alternative high schools provide a second chance for learners and graduate learners who have not found success in a more traditional setting. In 2018, eighty learners who may not have been able to recover enough credits to graduate walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

This would not be possible without the additional support that our faculty and staff wholeheartedly provide to make this kind of lasting impact. The graduation rate has steadily increased over the past two years under the leadership of Amy Prescott, principal at New Horizon Center, who attributes that increase to the hard work and commitment of the school’s teachers and support staff. The school’s attendance rate has also increased from 81.93 percent to 87.62 percent in the same time period.

As one middle school administrator put it, “For many of the learners in our alternative programs, this is the first time they’ve been placed in an environment where they enjoy success. We don’t just see numbers on a page. We see specific kids with specific circumstances and, at the heart of it all, the success they achieve is the real story.”

While the intent of the state is to provide transparency to the public, the new accountability system is riddled with levels of complexity that make it difficult for the general public and educators to understand.

The attached chart identifies the academic school quality measures used in the new system. A complex formula was utilized to provide a composite score of all schools within each school type: K-8, High School, and Alternative High Schools. It is important to remember that these results are based on a few snapshots in time including performance on the ISAT administered in the spring of each school year. There are many more indicators of the success of a school that are not reflected in these results.

We recognize that we have many reasons to celebrate, combined with many opportunities to renew our commitment to support the success of each and every learner in our district.

Chuck Orr is the Director of Curriculum for Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25.

Courtney Fisher is the Communications and Community Relations Specialist for District 25.

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