Idaho’s education system saw no significant improvement in the past year, at least according to Education Week’s 2014 Quality Counts state report card. The annual report from the education-focused news outlet is frequently cited by all sides during education debates in Idaho.
Education Week didn't hand out national state grades or rankings this year because it couldn’t get enough information in three of its six categories. But last year, Idaho’s education system received a C- and ranked ahead of only Nevada and South Dakota.
Here are the six categories the report considers, and Idaho's score:
Chance For Success: Grade = C, State Rank = 37
This category looks at a lot of things that go into the likelihood of people having successful careers after graduation. Those include the availability of early childhood education, and the state’s job market. Idaho's grade in this category was unchanged from last year's report.
K-12 Achievement: Grade = C-, State Rank = 23
This category mostly looks at how 4th and 8th graders score in math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP exam. It also considers graduation rates and Advanced Placement exam scores. Idaho also got a C- in 2013.
School Finance: Grade = D-, State Rank = 49
Idaho ranked dead last in this category because the District of Columbia and Hawaii did not get an overall grade. It’s based on total spending and how fairly states divide money between districts. D.C. and Hawaii don’t have districts, so they don’t get scored.
Idaho was in C territory for equity, but that wasn’t enough to bring its overall funding rank out from the bottom. However, three states, Nevada, California and Utah actually spent less per-student than Idaho when adjusted for regional economic differences.
Transitions and Alignment (not graded this year)
Last year Idaho got a C- minus and ranked 42nd in this category that grades how states get kids ready for school, college and the workforce.
Standards, Assessments and Accountability (not graded this year)
This was Idaho’s standout category the last time Ed Week graded it in 2012 with a B+ and a 27th-place ranking. The state did well on the quality of its standards and how well it held districts accountable for those standards. A Quality Counts researcher says Idaho’s strong accountability policies are unusual for a state that gives districts so much autonomy. Education Week is not grading this category now because most states, including Idaho, are transitioning to the Common Core State Standards.
The Teaching Profession (not graded this year)
In 2012, Idaho got a D- and ranked 50th in this category. It’s not about the quality teachers, but the state policies in place to help them do their jobs and improve their skills. A Quality Counts researcher says part of the reason Idaho scores low here, is because districts are responsible for things most states take care of. Those are things like professional development and new-teacher mentoring programs. But the low score also comes from things like how Idaho pays teachers and high student-to-teacher ratio.
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