The facts – and my experience – speak for themselves

The rankings and student achievement facts that I have cited during this campaign have been challenged by my opponents and some in the media. As a teacher, I’m going to say, “Do your homework!”

One editorial board recently said that I “oversell the success of Idaho’s schools using statistics that are not well-supported.” This seems to echo a talking point of one of my opponents, who publicly claimed she “could not find” the statistics I mention.

Our national rankings, listed on our most recent Education Outcomes Infographic, come from national news and education organizations including Education Week, US News and World Report, National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, and ACT College and Career Partnerships. And, these rankings are based on how students perform on nationally normed assessments. This is Idaho’s student assessment data. There is nothing “fuzzy” about it.

It’s no exaggeration to say Idaho has enjoyed impressive gains in educational achievement, and the statistics I cite clearly demonstrate how Idaho student performance has improved under my leadership. These strides also result from a collaborative effort between my State Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, and the Legislature. A few highlights:

  • 218,000 college credits earned by Idaho students while in high school last year;
  • #1 national ranking for percentage of high-school students taking post-secondary courses;
  • #17 national ranking for Student Achievement among all 50 states and Washington DC (up from #31 in 2016); other
  • #2 ranking for Student Achievement among six neighboring states.

I agree that we need a “clear, unvarnished view” of the challenges Idaho education faces, as well as the achievements. I have that view, courtesy of two decades as an Idaho teacher and district administrator and nearly eight years as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I know there is much progress yet to be made, and I have great faith in my fellow educators, and in Idaho students and families, to address our issues and propel our achievement to new heights. And, importantly, I have a fantastic team in place at the State Department of Education to help schools and students succeed.

And to those who contend that my experience as an educator is not “a critical piece” in leading the Department of Education, I adamantly disagree. One opponent’s leadership experience on the State Board of Education – seven years as a member, the last two as board president – is not, in any way, comparable, nor can she claim a record of success. My other opponent’s contention, that legislative service means more than experience as a K-12 educator, is ludicrous.

I came into the office on the heels of a superintendent who had no experience as an educator. He was a former school board chair with big ideas for change, but no experience as a teacher and no apparent understanding or respect for the profession. He survived recall efforts, but his education-reform initiatives were resoundingly rejected by voters. Morale at schools and districts throughout Idaho plummeted.

When I took office in 2015, my first order of business was to change the culture at the State Department of Education from one of blaming and shaming educators to one of support, service and collaboration. That culture, one of my proudest achievements, has gone a long way toward improving Idaho education and student outcomes.

I love my job, and I ask for your continued support as we work hard to move Idaho’s student achievement into the top 10 nationally. Please vote for Sherri in the primary on May 17!

About Sherri Ybarra

Sherri Ybarra is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is a former principal, teacher, federal programs director, and curriculum director for the Mountain Home School District.

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