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BSD Early Literacy Progress in 2021 and 2019

In October of last year (October 2021), the Boise School District gave a positive report about their early literacy results, as measured by the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator), for the 2020/2021 school year. Last month (October 2022), a less-detailed IRI update for the 21/22 school year was given with a plan to provide more detail at the upcoming November 14, 2022 board meeting.

You may recall, we noticed that the District and Board did not explore the data by demographic or delve into areas that needed improvement during the October 2021 IRI update. A further look into the data revealed that economically disadvantaged students experienced DOUBLE the early literacy learning losses compared both to the state-average and West Ada (read more here) for the 20/21 school year, but it was never addressed or discussed during the Board meeting so the public is unaware of any intervention that the District is conducting on behalf of these struggling students.

The Idaho State Board of Education has recently adopted a new PROGRESS reporting tool called EVAAS, an educational visualization and analytics solution that has basic data available to the public with more in depth data available at the district and school level.

According to EVAAS:

The tool measures students' relative academic progress over time. Its focus is student growth rather than student proficiency on the state assessment.

You can think of academic growth similar to that of a child's physical growth and the growth charts used by a child's physician are like the growth charts for a child's academic growth. Growth charts are an important tool for monitoring a child's development, but they are just one of the indicators used by the physician to ensure a child is growing at the minimum expected level and on the trajectory to grow as expected. A physician would not use a growth chart in isolation to diagnose a child; however, the growth chart would provide valuable information that might warrant further exploration.

While EVASS is a new tool for the public, the IRI and ISAT reporting can report out growth measures at the school, district and student level. This data has not been shared in a fashion like that of EVAAS and so the new reporting gives fresh insight to the relative progress being made on existing state assessments.

According to the EVASS reporting system, the early literacy PROGRESS for the Boise School District for the 20/21 school year was “well below” the expectation for K-3. This certainly does not match up with the positive sentiment shared during the IRI update presented at the October 2021 board meeting referenced above. The expected progress reported through EVAAS is unique to each school/district and takes varying factors into account such as starting proficiency or percent of student population that is economically disadvantaged, ELL (English Language Learner), special needs, etc. For example, a school with very few ELL students would have a different progress expectation than one with many ELL students.

While we do know that BSD early literacy growth for the 21/22 school year was lower than 85% of the school districts in the state, the State Department of Education has yet to create a comparison tool and the State Board of Education has yet to release the EVAAS data for the 21/22 school year. A brief IRI update on the 21/22 school year data was given during the October 2022 board meeting. According to the Oct 2022 presentation, more detailed information would be presented at the November 14, 2022 board meeting. While the current agenda does not show an IRI update presentation, it does show a “Student Support Services” presentation which hopefully will include a more detailed IRI update and plan for improvement.

The sub-par “ well below” expected early literacy progress results at Boise School District are not isolated to the 20/21 school year. The Idaho State Department of Education’s Similar District Comparison Tool for the 2018/2019 school year shows Boise School District with the lowest literacy growth compared to similar districts around the state. The new EVAAS System confirms that BSD early literacy progress was “well below” expected for the 18/19 school year as well.

In addition to the above reporting tool, which is available for both districts and individual schools, EVASS has a comparison tool where you can compare selected schools (and districts) among each other for both achievement and relative progress.

Below you will find relative IRI progress for all BSD elementary schools. What questions or concerns do you have about this data?

While academic achievement or overall proficiency is greatly influenced by indicators that can include things like socioeconomic status and primary language, relative growth or progress is not as impacted by these measures as all students can grow or show progress with effective systems and schools, as noted on EVAAS.

What was your child’s school relative growth index and what does that mean for their learning or for the learning of students with challenging circumstances such as, but not limited to: lower income, ELL (English Language Learner), single parent households, special needs, etc.?

According to the new EVASS reporting tool from the state board of education’s frequently asked questions:

If relative progress is CRITICAL in ensuring students future success, why are we not paying more attention to this measure in the Boise Schools?

We encourage you to be an advocate for your child and do your research. Ask questions and seek to understand what is happening at your child’s school. We’d love to hear from you as you explore more about your child's learning journey. Please feel free to contact us with your story.

We encourage you to explore the various tools available through the State Department of Education and State Board of Education (check out our “resources” page). As you explore the EVAAS tool (or other tools), look at surrounding schools and notice their relative progress. Why isn’t Boise competing with the growth other schools are making including other districts with similar challenges such as large ELL (English Language Learner) and economically disadvantaged populations?

This article shows how schools use systems like EVAAS to improve learning outcomes. You'll note a teacher can be enhanced or inhibited by the overall SYSTEM and the way the District sets and follows-through with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound) goals. What SYSTEMS or SMART GOALS do districts that are meeting or exceeding their expected progress have that BSD does not?

Please also (respectfully) send questions or concerns to the District Administration and Board. Feel free to share some of the information you may have learned through exploring the EVAAS tool or other resources and encourage our Board members to explore these tools for themselves. We want to be well informed and want our Board members to be well informed also so they may provide proper oversight and accountability to our District, advocate for students, and monitor student achievement (Policy 1125 Board Commitment).


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