Idaho Seeks New Accountability System

In November's EdSource, we outlined Idaho's plan to apply for additional flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. With this waiver, Idaho will finally be able to implement a new statewide accountability system that uses multiple measures of student achievement, including academic growth. A draft of the state's waiver application was published online in January and made available for public comment until February 1. We received more than 50 comments during that time. In addition, we met with representatives of educational stakeholder groups and solicited feedback from every school district.

The following is a summary of Idaho's ESEA Flexibility application, as well as links to the full document and additional resources.

Idaho is applying for ESEA Flexibility to ensure every Idaho student graduates from high school prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation. To accomplish this, Idaho has created a new system of increased accountability that focuses on postsecondary and career-ready standards; recognition, accountability and support for all schools; and a support system for effective instruction and leadership at every level. In 2011, Idaho passed comprehensive education reform laws, known as Students Come First, that reform every classroom into a 21st Century Classroom, increase professional development and other supports for great teachers and leaders, and improve the level of transparency and accountability at the state and district. These laws also implement a growth model and have positioned Idaho well to implement a new accountability system based on multiple measures of student achievement, not just proficiency. Here is how the new accountability system works.

College- and Career-Ready Expectations for All Students

Idaho adopted the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts and is implementing a comprehensive plan for transitioning to the standards by 2013-2014. The plan includes professional development opportunities and additional tools and resources that are targeted for Idaho teachers, principals and district leadership teams. All trainings and resources will ensure that students receive the education they need to meet these standards, including students who are English language learners, students with disabilities and low-achieving students. The State also is moving to next-generation assessments that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

State-Developed Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support

Idaho will maintain a single accountability system for all schools – Title I and non-Title I schools alike. Idaho will no longer measure Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for schools and districts. Under the new accountability system, the State has created a Five-Star scale to evaluate and recognize school performance.

The Five-Star scale uses multiple measures every year to determine a school's performance. Schools are evaluated based on student proficiency, student academic growth, student growth to proficiency, and postsecondary and career readiness metrics. The State will use the Idaho Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT) to measure growth and proficiency in grades 3-10.

The State will use additional metrics, such as graduation rate, enrollment in and completion of advanced courses and student scores on college entrance exams to measure postsecondary and career readiness. Under Students Come First, the State already has moved toward measuring academic growth as well as proficiency.

Four-Star and Five-Star Schools will be publicly recognized and financially rewarded for their excellent performance. These schools will serve as an example to other schools. Under Students Come First, the State developed a statewide pay-for-performance plan to financially reward the certificated staff in schools that demonstrate overall excellence or significant growth each year.

One-Star and Two-Star Schools will be required to develop school improvement plans tied to researched best practices and work closely with the State and their school districts to implement the interventions that are proven to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps. Three-Star Schools also must complete an improvement plan but will be given considerably more flexibility in how they implement interventions to reach Four-Star or Five-Star Status.

Supporting Effective Instruction and Leadership

Idaho has created statewide frameworks for performance evaluations that use multiple measures to improve the craft of teaching and instructional leadership at all levels. Every school district is currently using the Statewide Framework for Teacher Performance Evaluations, based on the Danielson Framework, to evaluate teachers at least once a year. Now, under Students Come First, at least 50 percent of a teacher and administrator's performance evaluation also must be based on student achievement. In addition, schools and districts must make sure parent input is included on teacher and school-based administrator performance evaluations going forward.

The Idaho State Department of Education is working with educational stakeholder groups to develop a statewide framework for administrator evaluations. This work is currently underway and should be completed by May 2012. The State will use these frameworks to make necessary changes with teacher and administrator preparation programs. This process has already begun with action from the Idaho State Board of Education.

Reducing Duplication and Unnecessary Burden

Idaho fully deployed a statewide longitudinal data system in 2010-2011. This system, known as the Idaho System for Educational Excellence (ISEE), consolidated data collection processes at the State and district levels and ultimately should reduce duplication and unnecessary burdens. The State received a grant in 2011 to deploy the second phase of ISEE: a statewide instructional management system (Schoolnet) available to all classrooms, schools and districts.

Staff at the State Department of Education are now reviewing all the comments we received during the public comment period. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna will present Idaho's waiver application to the Idaho State Board of Education on February 15. Upon approval by the Board, it will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by February 21.

Find more information, read the waiver in its entirety, and offer your perspective on Idaho's ESEA waiver here: