Test results up for grade schoolers


October 9, 2019

The number of elementary students showing proficiency in state math and language arts in the Sweet Home School District continued an ongoing upward trend overall, while at the junior high and high school level, the number showing proficiency generally declined in 2018-19 state testing.

Third-grade performance fell slightly last school year, while combined third- through fifth-grade performance improved slightly overall and by more than 12 points in the past five years, according to statistics released by the Oregon Department of Education in late September.

From the 2014-15 school year to the 2018-19 school year, the number of students showing proficiency – meeting the state standard – increased annually from 27.7 percent of third- through fifth-grade students to 39.93 percent in language arts. In math, 27.7 were proficient in 2014-15. The group made annual gains to 34.76 percent showing proficiency in 2018-19.

At the middle school level, sixth through eighth grade, 42.4 percent were proficient in 2014-15 in language arts. In 2018-19, 39.9 percent were proficient. The district peaked at 47.33 percent in 2015-16. In math, the district had 33.43 percent proficient in 2014-15 and 29.56 percent in 2018-19, with a peak of 37.86 percent in 2015-16.

In 11th-grade testing, 61.4 percent of students met the standard in language arts in 2014-15. In 2018-19, 39.9 percent were proficient, with a peak number of students testing proficient in 2016-17, with 67.3 percent. In math, 28.5 percent of 11th-grade students were proficient in 2018-19, up from 18.1 percent in 2014-15 but down from a peak of 32.9 percent in 2016-17.

In 2018-19, Sweet Home School District had its highest participation rate in state assessment testing, with 99 percent of students taking the language arts test, up from 98.4 percent in 2016-17. Close to 98.3 percent participated in math, up from 96.9 percent in 2016-17.

“We are taking our summative assessment seriously and are all in so we can understand the results and data to evaluate the overall effectiveness of our programs,” said Supt. Tom Yahraes. Among the takeaways, he noted general increases at the elementary level with isolated areas that require improvement and grades four and five on an upswing in math and language arts.

In many cases, he said, the fourth and fifth grades outpaced state average growth.

High school math and language arts have declined slightly in the past three years, he said, while grade-eight math has trended downward over the past four years.

Hawthorne and Oak Heights showed significant growth in language arts and math, Yahraes said. Hawthorne students showed the greatest improvement within the district in math, increasing from 30.6 percent of students proficient in 2017-18 to 38.5 percent in 2019. In language arts, the school moved from 40.4 percent proficient in 2017-18 to 46.6 percent proficient in 2018-19.

Oak Heights showed the greatest improvement in language arts, moving from 31 percent proficient to 37.4 percent proficient. In math, the school increased from 22.2 percent proficient to 28.8 percent proficient.

While grade four language arts at Holley showed a 16.8 percent decrease to 41 percent over the past year, the same group of students tested at 29 percent as third-graders, showing an actual 12-percent improvement for the cohort.

“We need to look at cohort data,” like these, said Chief Academic Officer Rachel Stucky. Those data follow specific sets of students as a class, which as groups, can cause fluctuations in state testing results.

Some 30.3 percent of the 2018-19 seventh grade, for example, were proficient in language arts when the class was the 2014-15 third grade. In the fourth grade, 35.2 percent were proficient. The cohort continued gaining, with 39.9 percent proficient in the fifth grade and 44.2 in the sixth grade. The group saw a decline in the number of proficient students in 2018-19, with 38.7 meeting or exceeding the state standard.

“This is the opportunity to be a sleuth,” Stucky said, noting that administrators are looking at how each group did as third-graders and have progressed since.

Yahraes said the district needs to identify what it has and has not done well. “We need to look at this data, tease it out, look at the strand data.”

Like the school report cards, the scores provide feedback to educators so they can improve, Yahraes said. The report cards and data on topics like academic growth are not public yet.

“These scores indicate how well our students are doing as compared to other students of similar demographics across the state,” Yahraes said. “We expect our internal data to mirror the state’s and show that the majority of our students are above the state averages for closing the achievement gap. Individual student academic growth is our mission. That is, no matter where a student stands academically, we help all students grow and improvement. We are dedicated to every student achieving their potential.”

At the same time, “we also want to keep in mind that the state test is a singular testing event in the spring that measures student proficiency in a set of standards and not individual academic growth over time,” Yahraes said. The state test is not a proper measurement of the whole student, and students excel in multiple ways throughout the community and through diverse academic, extra-curricular and co-curricular programs.

While looking at the five-year trends, with declines in the upper grades, “we also hypothesize that a four-day week will affect younger kids more than older kids,” Yahraes said. The district returned to a five-day week in 2017-18, which means the higher grades were in a four-day week when they were younger.

The district needs up-to-date information on how students are doing rather than relying on end-of-year test scores, Yahraes said.

The district needs ongoing feedback, Stucky said, and the students need to be more involved rather than just testing once a year. The older OAKS state assessment could be taken at different times with test scores available immediately, while the SBAC is given in the spring.

Feedback is “sluggish” in the current assessment system, Yahraes said.

The district is one of the few districts in the state to purchase an SBAC test, at $11 per student, this year that can be used throughout the year as students complete concepts, Yahraes said. The students can take the tests immediately, and based on their results, the district can respond to deficiencies immediately.

The district piloted the test on a limited basis last year, Yahraes said.

It’s been fully implemented from kindergarten through eighth grade this year, Stucky said.

For example, the sixth grade may take statistics and probability in October, she said. The district can pull test data immediately rather than waiting till the end of the year to find out which students are struggling with statistics and probability.

“There’s some isolated things we’ve got to respond to,” she said. “We have to analyze the results, but do that quickly.”

It cannot be about “response,” Stucky said. It needs to be about prevention.

If a student is below grade level and repeats the same grade level information, the student will still be below grade level, Stucky said.

The district has been training teachers in a new three-tiered system for helping the students, she said. Some 85 percent have been trained in it, while the last of them will be trained this year.

Students in tier two are missing some concepts, she said, and the district provides support specifically targeting the areas where the student is deficient.

Tier three is where students are missing necessary universal skills, Stucky said.

Training is not enough, Stucky said, and now the teachers and schools must make action plans and monitor their progress.


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