POLK COUNTY -- Overall, Polk County schools showed improvement over last year on state report cards issued last week.
Almost all the schools had satisfactory overall ratings with the exception of Perrydale School, Oakdale Heights and Monmouth elementary schools -- which had an overall rating of strong. More than 40 percent of schools in the state received an overall grade of strong.
"I'm encouraged that our schools are showing improvement but I'm discouraged about our eighth and tenth grade math scores and our fifth and eighth grade scores in writing," said Dallas Schools Supt. Dave Voves.
Voves said these tests are a measure of where a particular grade is at a particular time but is not a true comparison of how kids are doing over time.
"This is because the fifth graders we tested last year are not necessarily the same kids we tested in the third grade. If we could test intact groups, the same kids every year, then we would have a true comparison," he said.
The annual report cards, issued by the state Department of Education, are designed to inform parents and communities about school performance. The reports describe student performance on state tests, student attendance and dropout rates, SAT scores and teacher education.
Each school is evaluated in three categories: student performance, student behavior and school characteristics. Each school also receives an overall rating. One of five ratings are given: Exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low, or unacceptable.
Generally, Dallas and Central schools were rated satisfactory overall just like more than 50 percent of schools in the state.
In attendance, the elementary and middle schools in the Central District all showed improvement, with Monmouth and Oak Grove elementaries receiving a rating of exceptional and Talmadge Middle School moving from a rating of unacceptable last year to low this year.
Dallas High's attendance rating declined from exceptional to strong, Rickreall went from strong to satisfactory and LaCreole Middle School went from satisfactory to strong.
Statewide, of the schools that received report cards, 217 improved their ratings, 707 stayed the same and 129 received lower ratings. The number of schools earning ratings of satisfactory or above climbed from 96.1 percent in 2000 to 98.3 percent this year, according to the state Department of Education.
In terms of student performance, which is based on annual state test results, both Central and Dallas high schools did better than other schools of similar demographics in writing. More than 80 percent met state standards in both schools. Dallas did slightly better than other schools in reading and math problem solving but only 32 percent of Dallas High students met state standards in math multiple choice. The percentage of students in schools with similar demographics who met state standards was 36 percent.
"Compared to the other PAC-9 schools, I have ranked Dallas number one," DHS Principal Dave Novotney said. Silverton High School's scores on state tests improved over the four-year period but Dallas fared better in attendance and number of students who took the state tests.
Novotney said he is encouraged that the report card shows that the high school continues to improve. He credits his staff with making the improvement possible.
"Our attendance rate is a little disheartening. It dipped below 90 percent and for a one high school community it should be closer to 92 percent," Novotney said. "There's no simple answer to the attendance problem, we just have to be more diligent in monitoring."
At Central High, the percentage of students who met state standards was lower than schools with similar demographics in three of the four measured categories; reading, math multiple choice and math problem solving. Twenty-six percent of Central's students met state standards in math multiple choice, compared with 39 percent of students in schools with similar demographics.
Central has shown some progress in reading and writing from last year, said CHS Principal Linda Florence.
"Our reading scores have increased six percent over last year and writing has increased 27 percent," Florence said. Math scores declined slightly, three percent, Florence said. But the school is being pro-active, she said.
"We're working with the Educational Service District on a Goals 2000 math grant which provides money for staff and program development."
Perrydale tenth graders' student performance scores were much better than Dallas, Central or Falls City high schools in math, writing and problem solving. In writing, 96 percent of tenth graders at Perrydale met state standards.
Falls City high school students did better than schools with similar demographics in writing, math multiple choice and math problem solving. They were only slightly below their counterparts in reading with 39 percent of students meeting state standards.
Falls City needs to work on attendance though. They received an unacceptable rating in both the elementary and high schools. The percentage of students attending the high school was 86.7, compared to the state level of 93 percent. However, the high school drop out rate declined significantly from 9.4 percent last year to 6.7 percent this year.
Central's dropout rate was 8.4 percent this year, up from 7 percent last year. Dallas High's dropout rate was 4.6 percent this year, down from last year's 4.7 percent. Perrydale's dropout rate has been at zero for the last two years.
Morrison Alternative School was not rated for student performance or attendance because of insufficient data but they received a rating of exceptional for school characteristics, the percentage of students taking state tests.
Falls City Elementary was one of four elementary schools in the county receiving a strong rating in the area for student performance. The others were Perrydale, Monmouth Elementary School and Oakdale Heights Elementary School.
Oregon is one of 36 states that require some sort of assessment process, with report cards growing in popularity, according to a study conducted in November 1999 by the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at the University of California at Los Angles.
"There's no doubt that report cards are with us to stay," sad Ron Diesel, spokesman for the center. "But there are big questions from state to state. How valid are the rankings? How much information is provided? How useful are they to the public?"