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Independence School Rated &Quot;Exceptional&Quot;

POLK COUNTY -- Independence Elementary School received an "exceptional" rating on the Oregon Department of Education annual report card, released last week.

IES was the only school in the Central or Dallas districts to achieve that distinction, although every local school met or surpassed the rating standards.

Schools are rated each year as "exceptional," "strong," "satisfactory," or "did not meet standards."

The report card tells schools if they improved, stayed the same or dropped in academic performance and attendance/graduation rate. It also indicates where each school stands compared to statewide averages.

In the Central district, Henry Hill and Monmouth elementary schools both achieved "strong" ratings, while Ash Creek Intermediate School, Talmadge Middle School and Central High School were rated "satisfactory."

According to the report, when comparing 10th-grade students, 48 percent of those in the Central district are meeting what the state calls Oregon Assessment Standards for reading, compared to 56 percent of students statewide.

In math skills, the Central figure is 43 percent compared to 49 statewide; in writing it is 65 percent compared to 79 statewide; and in science skills it is 58 percent compared to 63 statewide.

At earlier grade levels -- grades five and eight, for instance -- students scored much closer to the statewide averages in all subjects. The decrease in performance as students reach high school age is an across-the-board characteristic throughout Oregon schools.

In Dallas, the elementary schools -- Lyle, Oakdale and Whitworth -- all received "strong" ratings, while LaCreole Middle School and Dallas High were graded "satisfactory." Luckiamute Valley and Morrison charter schools were not rated under the system.

Comparing 10th-grade students in Dallas, 45 percent met state assessment standards in reading (compared to 56 percent statewide). In the other categories, the figures were: math, Dallas 52 percent (state 49 percent); writing, Dallas 72 percent (state 79 percent); science, Dallas 54 percent (state 63 percent).

In the Central district, girls had a slight edge over boys in academic performance as rated by the percentage who exceeded testing standards in english and math. Girls had numbers of 20.4 percent (english) and 26.7 percent (math) compared to boys' figures of 15.6 and 24.9.

Dallas girls exceeding standards topped boys, 16.6 percent to 14.1 percent. But boys did better in math -- 28.0 percent exceeded standards, compared to 23.3 percent of girls.

Both districts had acceptable attendance rates. Central's was 92.6 percent overall, and Dallas' was 92.8. The statewide attendance average is 93.2 percent.

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"The results prove that our teachers are focused and accountable," said Central Superintendent Joseph Hunter. "They prove that we are making progress."

Central's showing on the state report card are markedly different than from the Adequate Yearly Progress report for 2004-05. The high and middle schools did not meet federal testing benchmarks. As a result, the district was labeled as not meeting federal standards.

The AYP differs in its scoring method, by looking at each sub-group of students. The school is hit with a "not met" mark if one group underperforms.

"This also shows the clear and undeniable disconnect between the federal standards -- standards largely based upon faulty assumptions," Hunter said, adding "We cannot continue to blindly suggest a system which lumps all children in the same arbitrary, politically motivated accountability system."

While its overall rating hasn't changed, the high school continues to show improvement in its dropout rate, which has fallen to 3.8 percent compared to 5.8 percent in 2000.

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Comments from Cory Bradshaw, director of instructional services, Dallas School Distirct:

"In the first year we were just a little lower than we had wanted to be ... and of course, in the second year we were averaged out over the two years. So we are hoping that just by bumping up our attendance by few points we may actually be able to outstanding category.

"In general our report cards look about the same as they have; the elementary schools look very good and the middle schools are satisfactory.

"The thing we are looking to work on specifically this year is attendance ... Don't get me wrong -- we are still improving and working on math and reading, but to look at it from a political side if we want the report to show a dramatic change we could do that just by getting our attendance up. A shift in attendance can make a huge improvement.

"The bottom line is if you want to teach kids you've got to keep them in school ... then, in terms of academics we all have the same goals: to improve math and reading.

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