Interpretation of a well-meaning state privacy law has kicked Coeur díAlene Charter Academy into an educational ditch of anonymity. Yet itís the state that got muddy.
The uber-achieving college prep public school, which had consistently been ranked as the best high school in Idaho and among the very best in the nation, vanished from all rankings after 2014.
In last Sundayís Press, reporter Judd Wilson tackled the mystery of Charterís disappearance by likening it to a tremendous team who did nothing wrong, yet whose record doesnít count. Among the culprits is a law meant to protect the identification of students who might be underperforming or who could in some other way have the blanket of privacy yanked from them.
Now that local legislators are aware of the issue, pledges have been made to address the lawís wording in the next legislative session. Charter Academy, a shining example of excellence in a state ridiculed for low educational support and tepid aspirations, must be allowed to have its test scores included in any comparatives that measure equal assessments, a responsibility that falls to the State Department of Education.
Skeptics believe the Charter omission is more a deliberate snub than an unintended consequence. They note that if youíre competing with Coeur díAlene Charter Academy, chances are youíre not going to look very good.
In the 2017-18 school year, 100 percent of Coeur díAlene Charter Academyís 56 sophomores tested proficient in English language arts, with 66 percent testing at the highest level possible. That stands in sharp contrast to the 40 percent of sophomores statewide who failed to achieve proficiency, with 17 percent scoring the lowest level possible.
In math, 89 percent of Coeur díAlene Charter Academyís sophomores achieved proficiency this year, with 56 percent testing at the highest level possible. Only 2 percent of its 55 sophomores tested at the lowest possible level in math, whereas 39 percent of the entire stateís sophomores tested at the lowest level and 67 percent failed to achieve proficiency.
Perhaps lost in this discussion are some facts about Charter that bear repeating. Charter is a public school because it receives state funding, but it is outside Coeur díAlene School Districtís vast array of resources and revenue generators. Charter in many cases must fend for itself, lacking the facilities other schools enjoy but prioritizing paying faculty well and striving for the highest levels of academic achievement.
Charter does not pick and choose from a pool of the academic elite. It uses a lottery system that virtually any local family can tap into. The fact that Charter students exceed their peers in many areas of academic excellence is likely a reflection not just of dedicated instruction, but strong family support. Oh ó and far more hard work than most kids are willing to put in.
At Charter, all students wear uniforms. At Charter, smartphones arenít student appendages. In fact, theyíre outlawed during the school day.
Coeur díAlene Charter Academy isnít just a bragging point for its students, families and staff. Itís the kind of institution that makes the Coeur díAlene area more attractive to people who value strong educational institutions in a community, including those who own or manage good companies.
Charterís omission from rankings is unfair and, frankly, unforgivable. Give these students and teachers their due.
Let Ďem play, and when they win, make it count.