Blaine County students once again beat state averages in standardized testing this year, but the grade-by-grade gap between white and Hispanic students remained higher, too.
Both the Blaine County School District and the state writ large saw an overall uptick in English language arts and math, as measured by the scores on the 2018-19 Idaho Standards Achievement Test, released by the Idaho State Department of Education on Monday.
Across all grades tested, 60.5 percent of Blaine County School District students were proficient in English language arts and 46.1 percent in math, increases of 1.3 and 1.2 percent year over year, according to district Data and Assessment Coordinator Marcia Grabow.
Overall, 55 percent of Idaho students were proficient in English
and 44.4 percent met the mark in
math, boosts of 1.4 and 1.1 percent.
The ISAT, which was revamped to more rigorous standards in 2015, is taken annually by students in third through eighth grades and by 10th-graders. This year marks the high-water mark for state students in both subjects, and for Blaine County students in math.
“It’s encouraging to see steady increases, both from year to year and from grade to grade as students progress,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a statement. “More Idaho students are performing at a proficient or advanced level, and we believe that trend will continue.”
Seven grades were tested in each subject. Local students beat state averages in 11 of the 14 grade-level tests; only third-, fourth- and fifth-grade math lagged behind.
But, even in the best cohorts, there’s room for significant room for improvement, according to
Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes.
“I want to caution us not to be too proud that we’re above the state,” Holmes told the school board during a preliminary report on June 11. “These standards are supposed to be the minimum for learning in Idaho. In my view, we should be at 100 percent.”
No single grade was more than
70 percent proficient on a single test.
“We’re still looking at 30 percent who aren’t proficient,” Trustee Rob Clayton said. “That’s a significant deficit.”
The state is still breaking down
data for specific grades and groups.
As of Wednesday afternoon, cumulative proficiency rates were not available for subgroups. Grabow will take a deep dive into the scores as the state releases a more fine-grained breakdown of the data, and administrators typically make a detailed presentation to the school board later in the year.
On Monday the state did release grade-level figures broken down by ethnicity for the state, and individual districts.
Those numbers tell a familiar story for Blaine County: On balance, both white and Hispanic students scored higher than their peer groups statewide, but the gap between the two groups locally was larger, too. Closing that difference—the so-called “achievement gap”—is a stated goal for the School District. In 2019, it remained higher than the state average in all but three testing areas.
Still, there’s a point of optimism for minority students—one that Holmes noted after receiving the data Monday.
“Our Hispanic subgroup starts out behind and pulls ahead by the time they leave our schools,” she told the Idaho Mountain Express in an email. “However, we still have a gap between Hispanic and White that we are relentlessly focused on eliminating so that all students achieve at the highest levels.”