BOISE, Idaho — Idaho education officials plan to adopt their own grading system for schools while rejecting the latest benchmarks under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Under a new accountability system developed by the state Department of Education, Idaho would use a new five-star scale to evaluate and recognize schools.
The new measuring system would use standardized test scores to measure student academic growth and proficiency in grades 3-10, while things like graduation rates and student enrollment in advanced courses would come into play in later grades, according to early drafts of the plan obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday.
The department chose a five-star scale because it's a rating system the general public can relate to, said public schools chief Tom Luna.
"When we look for hotels, when we look for restaurants, when we look for book reviews or movie reviews, or product reviews, we're very familiar with the five-star rating," Luna said. "We want something that is very customer friendly, and customer recognizable, and whether you're inside education or outside education, we're all very familiar with the five-star approach to rating things."
Under the system, four- and five-star schools will be publicly recognized and rewarded financially while being held up as an example, Luna said.
Schools that fall on the bottom end of the scale, earning one or two stars based on the academic measures, will fall under intense scrutiny and be required to develop improvement plans. They will also need to post two years of progress before advancing on the five-star scale.
Schools that fall in the middle, with three stars, will also have to draft improvement plans but will have more flexibility and only have to post one year of progress before advancing on the grading scale.
Idaho is embarking on its own course after opting to ignore latest requirements for determining school progress under No Child Left Behind, which is known primarily for its emphasis on standardized tests and the labeling of thousands of schools as "failures."
Idaho and a handful of other states spearheaded a rebellion against No Child Left Behind last year, saying the 10-year-old law sets unrealistic benchmarks and fails to accurately measure student growth.
Luna is focusing instead on education changes that were signed into law last year as part of his Students Come First plan, which emphasizes the academic growth for students and less on whether they can pass a specific test, he said.
Luna has led the charge to disconnect the state from No Child Left Behind, arguing Idaho schools can no longer wait for Congress to reauthorize the education law and rewrite it to better gauge student performance.
President Barack Obama announced in September that since Congress had failed to rewrite No Child Left Behind, he would allow states that meet certain requirements to apply for a waiver to get around it.
Eleven states have already formally requested the waivers, while Idaho plans to meet a second deadline to apply on Feb. 21. The state started accepting public comment on Idaho's application, which details the new grading system for schools, on Tuesday.
The 21-day public comment period ends Feb. 1.
With the waiver, Idaho would start using the new five-star system to rate schools during the 2012-2013 school year.