Issaquah School Board resets academic standards

April 3, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Last year, for the first time, the Issaquah School Board essentially handed the Issaquah School District its very own report card.

As designed by the board, the district scorecard tracks some 20 indicators of student academic performance. It also sets goals officials hope students will meet.

Categories include student scores on standardized tests, how many students are taking certain math classes or how many seem to be on track to do well in college. The school board recently spent several hours at more than one meeting going over the scorecard and setting new academic targets for the schools.

“We were pretty happy with where we stand overall,” board President Chad Magendanz said.

But he also said board members wanted to up the ante.

“Overall, this has been a very good exercise,” said Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele, who also said the scorecard makes the district’s goals and performance available for the public to investigate.

On the Web

See the complete Issaquah School District scorecard at www.issaquah.wednet.edu. Click on “Annual Community Report” and follow the links to the scorecard.

For example, as stated, one goal is to get students better prepared for college. The scorecard looks at a number of criteria within that general category. Factors include graduation rates, the percentage of students passing standardized tests and the number of students enrolled in Advancement Placement classes or who are taking part in Skyline High School’s International Baccalaureate Program.

The program offers a high school diploma with special recognition, according to the district. In the 2010-2011 school year, about 58 percent of eligible students were enrolled in IBP or other advanced classes. The number has experienced annual growth, according to the scorecard, so Magendanz and the board felt comfortable in setting a target of getting a 70 percent enrollment rate in those courses during the 2012-2013 school year. The target had been set at 60 percent.

For younger students, the board and administration have put a special emphasis on ensuring students can read at grade level by the third grade. To judge student performance, the scorecard looks at standardized test scores. Why the emphasis on third-grade reading readiness?

Thiele and Magendanz gave the same answer. Up until third grade, students should be learning to read. After third grade, students must be able to read in order to learn. For now, the scorecard sets the goal at getting 92 percent of third-graders reading at grade level by the next school year. About 85 percent of students met the criteria in the 2010-2011 school year.

Besides adjusting some of the goals, Magendanz and others said the board came up with a better way to measure and compare the district’s performance. In the past, officials had compared Issaquah schools to the state average. Now, the district is comparing itself to other districts with similar demographics, at least regarding graduation rates.

Some of those demographics include the size of districts in both physical area and in student population. Other factors include the numbers of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches; the numbers of teachers with at least a master’s degree; and the number of bilingual students. According to Magendanz, the change will give officials a more realistic look at how the schools are performing or should be.

In the past, the district was showing graduation rates of over 100 percent, Magendanz said. Those figures included students who graduated a year late. When adjusted, the figure became 92 percent for the 2009-10 school year. District officials are still waiting for final figures for the 2010-2011 school year. They have set a target graduation rate of 94 percent for the 2012-13 school year.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or www.tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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