Idaho business group’s study questions students’ readiness for life after high school

Just days after the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation caught criticism from school districts over a TV ad suggesting 80 percent of Idaho high school students aren’t ready for life after high school, a group of Idaho business leaders jumped into the fray with basically the same data and nearly the same conclusion.

But there is one difference. The Don’t Fail Idaho campaign from the Albertson Foundation says the state’s stakeholders must work together to solve the problem. The Idaho Business for Education group says communities must set the standards for their schools.

“If we place very little value on going on to postsecondary education, there is no way a school is going to materially change those numbers,” Bob Lokken, chairman of Idaho Business for Education, told the Statesman on Wednesday.

The Albertson Foundation campaign features a stark video advertisement showing a school bus dropping off kids in the middle of nowhere. It brought strong criticism from the Boise district and at least 16 superintendents across the state who challenged the foundation’s reliance on college entrance exams to determine which students are ready for life after high school.

The foundation “advertisements are deceptive, as this foundation has distorted facts that do not accurately reflect reality in Idaho,” said Geoff Thomas, Madison School District superintendent in Rexburg and Idaho’s superintendent of the year.

The business group and Lokken, CEO of a Boise software company, said teachers are not a target. “We have hardworking educators all across our state,” he said.

But while the state aims for a goal that 60 percent of its residents ages 25 to 34 have some post-high school education, only one in five students appear ready for that challenge, he said.

The business leaders’ goal is to “help our communities set their priorities,” Lokken said.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman