by TERRY SMITH
Members of the Bellevue Elementary School Parent Auxiliary organization don’t seem overly concerned that the school only received two stars out of a maximum of five in the Idaho State Department of Education’s newly released rating system.
“When I read that in the paper, I thought, “What does that matter?” one parent said.
“So why should we care—we don’t,” said another.
Some 30 members of the organization gathered at the school Wednesday evening for their first monthly meeting of the school year to meet new teachers, talk about fundraising and hear about the new state rating system from Principal Angie Martinez.
“It provides an extremely limited view of what makes a school effective,” Martinez said of the rating system. “We’re not a two-star school—we got a two-star rating. We are so much more. The feedback I get from our parents is we have an amazing school.”
Results of the new rating system, intended by the Idaho State Department of Education to replace a current Adequate Yearly Progress rating system required by the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, were released in late August.
Bellevue Elementary School received the lowest score of the Blaine County School District’s eight schools, scoring only two stars while other schools ranged from three to five stars. The two-star rating requires that Bellevue Elementary develop a plan for improvement.
Of the district’s other three elementary schools, Woodside elementary received a three-star rating while Hemingway and Hailey elementary schools received four stars each.
For elementary school ratings, the new system differs from Adequate Yearly Progress because it measures not only student achievement on test scores but also the academic growth from year to year of individual students. In fact, under the new scoring system, student growth from year to year, as measured by test scores, is given more weight in the scoring system than the test scores themselves.
Martinez pointed out that the school’s third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, the elementary school students required to take annual Idaho Standards Achievement Tests, scored well above the state benchmark goal in math, reading and science. Nonetheless, the school lost points in the student academic growth categories.
Martinez said district officials are still trying to figure out the rationale behind the complicated formula used in determining points and was unable to provide an explanation on why Bellevue Elementary scored low on student growth.
District Communications Director Heather Crocker confirmed Thursday that the district is still trying to understand the rationale of the new scoring system.
“Until the state releases the star-data detail we have requested, we won’t know what factors contributed to Bellevue Elementary’s receiving lower growth rate scores than the district’s other three elementary schools,” Crocker said. “The state’s explanation of how student growth percentile is calculated is basically a formula that doesn’t explain anything.”
At Wednesday’s parent meeting, Martinez pointed out that both the older Adequate Yearly Progress rating system and the newer star rating system take into account only test scores for calculating school performance and ignore other areas of learning that are emphasized at Bellevue Elementary and other schools in the district.
“We haven’t compromised that in our district,” Martinez said, adding that the district will continue to emphasize art, music and other cultural activities.
She further noted that the school is focused on preparing students for college and careers by helping them become critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators and effective communicators.
She said the school also emphasizes good citizenship, civic responsibility, global and cultural awareness and staying physically fit.
Regardless of the inadequacies of the new rating system, Martinez said, Bellevue Elementary will take the rating system seriously as it writes the required plan.
“We will respond with gusto to the state’s new rating system,” she said.
Terry Smith: email@example.com
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