School district officials worry new website could mislead

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COEUR d’ALENE — The Idaho State Department of Education rolled out its new K-12 Report Card last week on a new website, idahoschools.org.

“This new site is easy to navigate, presents information clearly and without bias, and gives parents and others the information they want without wading through columns of other information,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, whose staff developed the new site over nine months.

While hailing it as an accessible tool for district patrons to learn about local schools, Coeur d’Alene School District director of curriculum and assessment Mike Nelson said the new website has a few issues.

Nelson said the academic achievement information is “misleading because it compares school-level data to district-wide data at multiple grade levels.”

For example, ISAT scores for Coeur d’Alene High School show the average score of CHS sophomores, the only group in the school that takes the ISAT. However, the website compares their ISAT average with the average ISAT scores of all grade levels across the district and state, Nelson observed.

“It would be better to compare each grade level to the district and state averages for that same grade level,” he said.

Nelson also said that SD 271’s college and career readiness results “may be artificially low.” He said it was the result of coding issues for dual-credit classes in the district’s student management system. Nelson said district officials “are hand-calculating the rates now to get a clearer idea of what our actual college and career readiness results should be.”

Nelson said he has spoken with SDE officials about another inaccuracy. “Under the benchmarks for College/Career Readiness, our percentages for math and reading/writing somehow were swapped,” he said.

Director of Assessment and Accountability Karlynn Laraway said early response to the new report card had been positive, including from a parent focus group. Last Monday, she previewed the site for the stakeholders group that helped identify the report card’s vision, including the Idaho School Board Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Idaho Business for Education and the Idaho Division of Career-Technical Association, according to SDE spokesman Kristin Rodine.

SDE spokesman Scott Phillips added that the site had been accessed more than 1,100 times in its first 24 hours.

The home page for the new site is not labeled “report card,” in part to convey that the SDE is not grading the state’s schools and districts, Laraway said. Instead, it introduces the site as the Idaho School Finder.

Laraway said more features will be added in January, including a comparison tool that allows users to call up information on three schools at a time. Results from new parent and teacher surveys will be added to the site each August.

Data from the old K-12 report card is still available online at the SDE’s accountability page.

Requests for comment from SDE officials were not answered by press time.

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