Local schools all struggling with math, ELA proficiencies

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For the second year in a row, Idaho schools have missed their target marks in English and math for vulnerable student populations.

According to an investigation conducted by Idaho Education News, Idaho missed all 22 of the math and ELA (English Language Arts) targets needed to comply with the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

While there is a wide variety of data that is looked at when determining these targets and goals, one of the biggest indicators is the percentage of students hitting their grade level proficiency marks in both ELA and math.

In Shoshone County, all three of the local school districts have a high population of vulnerable students.

Vulnerable students include, but are not limited to, the poor, frail, disabled, economically disadvantaged, homeless, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with low literacy, victims of abuse or persecution, and persons with social risk factors such as isolation.

Shoshone County unfortunately checks the box on several of those factors.

Against 2019 Idaho State averages of 55.6% for ELA and 45.1% in math for grade level proficiency on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, Kellogg School District tested at 57.7% and 38.4% respectively, Wallace School District at 51.8% and 47.6% respectively, and in the Mullan School District it was 56.6% and 22.6% respectively.

Every state is required to have an ESSA plan and Idaho’s ESSA plan specifically calls for reducing the percentage of students not scoring proficient by one-third over a six-year time period.

Educators are scrambling to make sure that they don’t just look at standardized testing scores when factoring these goals either.

“Each school individually looks at much more than just ISAT scores; they use a variety of measures collected throughout and especially near the end of the year,” said Dr. Nancy Larsen, Kellogg School District superintendent. “Then we work at the teacher level to use this data to plan for our next year for grade levels to establish goals.”

After hearing Dr. Larsen’s comments, Dr. Bob Ranells, the superintendent of the Wallace School District agreed and added to her statements.

“After reading Dr. Larson’s comments, we agree wholeheartedly with her thoughts,” Ranells said. “There certainly are issues with the goals established by the State Department of Education and State Board relative to targets established summarily for the students of Idaho. We know that there are challenges when you lump everyone on issues like this and the wide variety of populations across the state.”

In the Wallace School District specifically, they have taken measures to work with each student on an individual basis to help them overcome any struggles they may be having.

“When we are monitoring math, grade 8 through kindergarten, we observe their work on a day-to-day basis, as well as the weekly diagnostic assessments,” Ranells explained. “At this point, we focus on those items that students demonstrate a need to refocus on. In the Wallace School District, we are very committed to our Response to Intervention (or what are they going to do when a student demonstrates that they didn’t get it), as well as what do we do when a student gets it the first time.”

In a recent article from Idaho Education News (Published on October 13, by Clark Corbin), when asked if the goals were unrealistic or if Idaho is failing its most vulnerable students, Karlynn Laraway, the ISDE’s director of assessment and accountability, emphasized that some schools are exceeding their goals and that is important to keep focused on making progress statewide.

“We’re proud of our teachers, we’re proud of our students,” Laraway told Idaho Education News. “We continue to see improvement and we want to make sure we don’t focus solely on what we haven’t made, but what we have made.”

Dr. Ranells expressed that while missing various marks can be disappointing, the focus stays the same.

“All in all we want all of our students to be successful in their learning experiences,” Ranells said.

Idaho also missed all of its 2018 interim targets for high school graduation rates. Data on 2019 graduation rates is not yet available.

Laraway also mentioned to IEN that she isn’t aware of any accountability — or consequences — from the feds for failing to meet interim targets or the long-term goals.

• • •

Some information for this story came from a recent release from Idaho Education News, other information, such as the ISAT scores came from the Idaho State Department of Education website.

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