District student performance, like state, down a bit

Sean C. Morgan

Student performance on state tests fell in School District 55 last year, 2012-13, just like the rest of the state.

In relation to the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, Sweet Home Charter School led the way districtwide, while Foster and Holley elementary schools and Sweet Home Junior High School exceeded the state percentages in the majority of subjects and grade levels tested.

“If you simply look at the percent of students meeting state standards, most of these results are discouraging,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “However, I hope that people will look beyond the percentage to the learning behind it. Test results and percent met should never be our end goal. That end goal needs to be student learning – and ultimately students graduating high school college and career ready.”

“I agree, and purport that these high- stakes tests pose many problems,” said District 55 Supt. Don Schrader. “We place much emphasis on something that doesn’t fully tell the whole story, and at times these tests can promote inequity and create pressure on teachers to be less holistic and narrower in focus.

“I worry that our students aren’t given the variety of experiences they deserve because of the pressure caused by high stakes testing. To improve classroom instruction, our focus should be in getting the right people in front of kids. We need to invest more in staff development and ongoing teacher training.

“A very smart friend of mine once told me, ‘If you want an elephant to grow you need to feed it, not weigh it!’ If we want our kids to grow we need to “feed” them with high-quality instruction.”

The testing is the reality, Schrader said. “If that’s what they’re using, we need to improve it.”

In Sweet Home, the district faced changes in staffing, schedules and the standards being taught, Schrader said. The format of the test also changed, and students were given only two opportunities instead of three to take the test. The state also raised the bar on the tests a couple of years ago, and the test will change again next year from the OAKS to the Smarter Balance, which is part of the implementation of the federal Common Core requirements.

“This does affect test scores, and overall, Sweet Home generally followed the state trend and performance was down in a number of areas, but there are a few bright spots to talk about. Sweet Home students showed gains at certain grade levels. For example, Sweet Home eighth graders outperformed the state in math, and their scores improved significantly over last year.”

Foster’s fourth and sixth grades outperformed last year’s math scores, and in reading, Foster, Oak Heights, Holley and the Junior High saw gains over last year’s scores.

The test scores, just one of several tools to measure student learning, will serve as a baseline going forward, Schrader said. “I think it’s going to get better. We really are focused now that we have a baseline on where we need to improve. Obviously, it’s an eye opener. We want to perform well. We’re setting a vision to expect the best.”

District officials know that learning is taking place, Schrader said, and now they must make sure they can show that in this system of testing.

Statewide at a glance

n In math, the percentage of students meeting standard dropped or was flat in grades 3 through 8. The percentage met for high school math was up 3 percent. Average scores were mixed but were slightly up overall.

n In reading, the percentage of students meeting standard dropped in grades 3 through 8 but was up slightly in high school. Average scores were mixed but were down very slightly overall.

n In science, all grades were flat or down in both percentage met and average scores.

n Writing is currently only assessed in the 11th grade. Writing saw the largest drop of any subject, with a 7 percent decrease in the percentage of students meeting standard. The average score for writing was down slightly.

Districtwide, 65.9 percent of students met or exceeded the standard in eighth-grade science, exceeding the percentage of students statewide, and in math, the district exceeded state performance in math in grades six through eight, with 60.5 percent, 65.2 percent and 77.3 percent meeting or exceeding the standard respectively.

The district exceeded the state percentage in four of 18 categories of grades and subjects, which includes fifth, eighth and 11th grades in science; grade 11 in writing; grade three through 11 in reading and literature; and grades three through 11 in math.

District-wide, 60.5 percent – 322 students – met or exceeded the standard in science, compared to 65.1 percent statewide.

n In writing, 45.3 percent, 78 students, met or exceeded the standard, compared to 59.5 percent statewide.

n In reading and literature, 69.9 percent, 809 students, met or exceeded the standard, compared to 70.6 percent statewide.

n In math, 60.4 percent, 737 students, met or exceeded the standard, compared to 62.1 percent statewide.

n Sweet Home Charter School exceeded statewide performance in nine categories, including grade five science, reading and literature in grades three through six and math in grades three through six.

n The Junior High exceeded the state percentage in four of five categories, including grade eight science, math in grades seven and eight and reading in grade seven. It fell short in grade eight reading.

n Foster School exceeded state percentages in grades three, four and six in reading and literature and also in math, while falling shorter in three categories, including grade five science, reading and math.

n Holley School also exceeded the state’s performance in six out of nine elementary school categories, including reading and literature grades three through six and in grade four and six math. It fell shy in grade three and five math and grade five science.

n Oak Heights exceeded statewide performance in two categories, including grade three and five math. Hawthorne was shy of the statewide results in nine categories, and Sweet Home High School was below statewide percentages in four categories, including grade 11 writing, math, science and reading.

To access and explore the data in greater detail, visit ode.state.or.us/apps/BulkDownload/BulkDownload.Web.