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MAKING THE GRADE: The nation's Report Card is in! How did Idaho do?

Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-03 19:53:26-05

Michelle Edmonds and Idaho Education News reporter, Kevin Richert, take a look at this week's hottest education topics in Making the Grade.

Idaho students fared well on the test widely known as “the nation’s report card.”

And Idaho’s scores held steady, with one notable and troubling exception: Eighth-grade reading scores declined significantly.

This decrease falls in line with a larger trend on this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. But Idaho’s struggles come as Gov. Brad Little and the Legislature are making reading a top education priority — putting $26 million into extra help for kindergartners through third-graders, hoping the investment will pay dividends down the road.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra hailed the overall results — taking a swipe at other national rankings that have focused largely on school funding.

“Once again, our students debunked the myth that Idaho education lags near the bottom of state rankings,” Ybarra said in a news release Wednesday. “This is the only assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in every state, and Idaho students performed better than the national average in all four tested cohorts.”


Idaho’s scores on the ACT improved slightly in 2019, and topped national averages.

But the scores mean only so much, since only about a third of Idaho students take the test.

The ACT is one of several college placement exams available to high school students, and all Idaho students need to take one of these exams in order to graduate high school. But the ACT is not Idaho’s college entrance exam of choice. Since Idaho high school juniors can take the SAT during the school day — and at taxpayer expense — most high school students opt for that test. Idaho’s ACT cohort tends to be much smaller, and skews toward higher-achieving and college-bound students.

That was certainly the case for this year’s graduating class. Forty-six percent of Idaho’s ACT test-takers said they plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree while 37 percent plan to seek an advanced degree — numbers that far exceed Idaho’s stubbornly low college go-on rates. Idaho is investing tens of millions of dollars to try to encourage more high school graduates to continue their education.

The latest ACT numbers should contribute to a continuing discussion of college readiness, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said in a news release Wednesday. “Nearly one third of Idaho high school students chose to take the ACT, and they outperformed their peers across the nation.”


Backers of a proposed ballot initiative to raise $170 million for K-12 public schools -- by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations -- have started collecting signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.

Reclaim Idaho spokesman Jeremy Gugino said Monday that the group started the effort over the weekend after the Idaho Attorney General's Office approved ballot language, and the Secretary of State's Office late Friday gave the okay to start collecting signatures.

The Secretary of State's Office says the group must now collect 55,000 signatures from registered voters by April 30 of next year.


Members of the House Education Committee probed the interplay between the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education during a rare ad hoc committee meeting Tuesday at the Statehouse.

As part of an effort to prepare for the upcoming 2020 legislative session, members also took a closer look at how the education budget comes together with state and federal funds.

In the process, legislators may have offered a sneak peek at some of the big debates of the upcoming year.


Watch the full Making the Grade discussion: