Eye On Boise

THURSDAY, DEC. 1, 2011, 1:42 P.M.

AP: Idaho’s new student data system scores well in national report

A new report released today shows Idaho has met all 10 goals in a national project to collect and monitor data on student achievement, but the state still needs to improve when it comes to effectively using the information being collected, reports AP reporter Jessie Bonner. Idaho was among the last states to launch a longitudinal data system to track student achievement; it started operating the system last school year amid strenuous complaints from school districts around the state about difficulties with the new system. The state Department of Education says it's gotten better; click below for Bonner's full report.

Report: Idaho meets student data system goals
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A new report shows Idaho has met all 10 goals in a national project to collect and monitor data on student achievement, but the state still needs to improve when it comes to effectively using the information being collected.

The report from the National Center for Educational Accountability's Data Quality Campaign was released Thursday.

Idaho, until last year, was among a few states without a longitudinal data system to provide more accurate graduation rates and dropout statistics. The state started operating the new student tracking method during the 2010-2011 school year.

School administrators and business managers slammed the state's installation of the system on surveys earlier this year and their complaints, which ranged from a lack of training to problems reporting the data, were reported to lawmakers this summer.

While school officials urged the state to slow down with the installation of the new system, public schools chief Tom Luna has countered that wasn't an option.

Idaho was the last state to install a longitudinal data system to better track students and state officials agreed to have the program in operation by September 2011 when taking some $300 million in federal stimulus money two years ago, according to the state Department of Education.

Luna has said that some of the complaints are valid while others are not. He told lawmakers on the Idaho Legislature's budget-writing committee in June that his agency had been working on most of the concerns for months and a good portion had already been addressed.

Luna is scheduled update lawmakers on the implementation of Idaho's longitudinal data system later this month.

"The biggest challenge we had was with the districts uploading their data and it being correct," said Luna spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. "There was a lot of back-and-forth last year about making corrections and how do you get the correct data because it was the first year they ever used this new system."

More than a dozen Idaho school districts volunteered for an audit of the new system, which is designed to collect and monitor student test scores, attendance and other data from the time they enroll in kindergarten. The results of that audit, which was among the requirements Idaho agreed to when taking the stimulus money, will likely not be ready for release by Luna's Dec. 15 meeting with the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

That state has seen a dramatic improvement in the information being collected, McGrath said.

For example, only nine districts and charter schools uploaded data that was free of errors last year, she said. This year, 133 of Idaho's 160 school districts and charter schools uploaded data that was free of mistakes.

"There still might be challenges because the system is new, but it is getting easier at the district level to upload data," McGrath said.

Idaho is among 36 states that have implemented all 10 goals set by the Data Quality Campaign for a robust longitudinal data system, according to the report released on Thursday. That's up from zero states in 2005, the group said.

States were also scored on how well they use the data in 10 different areas. Idaho met four of those goals, including the creation of progress reports with student-level data for educators, students and parents. The six areas where Idaho did not make the grade included linking the information collected in kindergarten through 12th grades with workforce data so the state can better prepare students for jobs, according to the study.

"States have worked so diligently to build their capacity to collect and use quality education data, but we will see improved student achievement only when all stakeholders_from parents to policymakers_actually use these data to make informed decisions," said campaign director Aimee Guidera in a statement.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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