The number of top-performing schools dropped slightly in Boise and Meridian in 2012-2013, according to the five-star rating system released by the Idaho Department of Education on Thursday.
Despite the decline, both school districts say they are pleased with the overall academic growth students are showing.
But as districts make plans for school improvement based on current ratings, the state will be leaving behind the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, the statewide assesment that Meridian Superintendent Linda Clark called "an outdated measure."
Last year, Idaho began using the five-star rating system based on criteria such as assessment results, academic growth and graduation rates to give Idahoans a scorecard on how schools perform. That rating system will remain in place as Idaho transitions from the ISAT to exams based on the Idaho Core Curriculum coming to schools this fall. A few high school students will take the ISAT.
Educators welcome replacement of the ISAT, which they have long complained is based on low standards. The new exams will be pegged to the more difficult and challenging Idaho Core Curriculum.
The ratings schools just received will remain in place while students take a field-test version of the common core exam in 2013-2014. But the system is expected to start up again in 2014-2015, when students - and schools - will be scored on how well they perform.
TOUGHER TESTS, MORE TIME
The new tests already are raising concerns among districts that worry they could take up to 8.5 hours, nearly double what students spent taking the ISAT each year.
"It is a huge deal," said Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent. "It takes away from instruction time."
Clark worries that the new, longer exams will eat up computer lab time and slow computer-based instruction.
Opponents of Common Core also cite testing time among their complaints, warning that coping with additional testing could cut instruction time by 20 percent. State and school officials have said they don't expect the impact to be that great.
In the ratings reported Thursday, 59 percent of the state's 648 schools received 4 or 5 stars.
The number of schools getting only a single star dropped from 35 to 22.
In Boise, the number of schools with the top ratings dropped from 30 to 26. In Meridian, they fell from 23 to 22.
In Nampa, schools scoring 4 or 5 dropped from 10 to 9
In Caldwell, four schools scored 4 or 5, up from none in the previous year.
Boise High received a 5, up from a 4 last year.
Morley Nelson Elementary in Boise dropped from a 5 to a 3. Slowed academic growth was responsible for the drop, Coberly said. District officials will begin looking at ways to improve growth at Morley Nelson as the school year gets underway next month, he said.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts