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The above chart shows the percentage of Polk County students meeting or exceeding new 2011-12 state assessment standards in math and reading.
September 11, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- Public school students at almost all grade levels in Oregon showed improvement on state math tests in 2011-12.
The percentage of students meeting reading and science standards, however, fell -- sharply for some grade levels -- from 2010-11.
Polk County's school districts stumbled in reading as well, though as a whole, there were more students here meeting science benchmarks than the statewide average.
The Oregon Department of Education released results of its Assessments of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) test for 2011-12 on Monday. The exam serves as the basis for ODE's forthcoming school report cards and used to be one of the measurements for the old Adequate Yearly Progress reports.
"This year's results highlight both areas of great progress and areas of great concern," said Rob Saxton, ODE's acting deputy superintendent, in a news release. "High school performance was flat or down in every subject.
"I know our high schools are working hard, but clearly something has to change because we're not moving in the right direction."
The fact that reading and science scores fell was no surprise, ODE officials said. The state adopted higher achievement standards for reading, to align them with national and international benchmarks.
Science standards, meanwhile, are also stiffer. "Scientific inquiry and design" content and broader science concepts were new components of this year's test for the first time.
"We'll now talk about energy in regard to all science," said Rachel Aazzareh, ODE science specialist. "Before, energy might have been something only explored in chemistry or biology in high school ... now they're learning it at the life-science level, as well."
Polk County's four districts generally mirrored the rest of the state in math, with elementary and middle schools seeing more kids meet standards than the previous year. Among Polk County high schools, only Falls City saw a larger percentage of students meet benchmarks.
"The scores are low, we recognize that," said Jamie Richardson, LaCreole Middle School principal. Fewer students at his school met standards last year than 2010-11.
"I think our teams are pretty motivated about getting them back up," Richardson said. "We're doing a lot of investigation on where our kids stand on the skills they need."
In Central, only half of the grade levels saw more students meeting or exceeding standards over the previous year.
Dallas High and Falls City fifth- and eighth-graders were the only grade levels that saw reading percentiles increase.
The state's assessment results include a look at how students in 2010-11 would have scored using 2011-12 academic standards.
Overall, fifth- and eighth graders in Oregon did worse in science last year than 2010-11 and did not show an increase in student learning. Most of those grades in Polk County, however, had more students make the grade last year than the prior year.