Sunday, December 08, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
As of 2012, students must pass state assessment tests in math, reading and writing to earn high school diplomas.
September 17, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- Statewide assessment scores at Polk County schools reveal a need for improvement -- in some areas a lot of improvement -- for students to stay on track for graduation.
Those results released by the Oregon Department of Education Thursday mirror, for the most part, what is happening at the state level as test scores were mostly flat or slid back from last year.
State officials say the discouraging results stem from giving students fewer testing opportunities and multiple years of budget cuts, resulting in increasing class sizes and shorter school years.
"We are now testing kids less and focusing instead on student learning and growth," said Rob Saxton, the state deputy superintendent. "I believe these changes are in the best interest of kids, but they have impacted the way we have long measured educational success in our state."
Dallas School District had one of the lowest percentages of this year's seniors meeting writing standards -- a graduation requirement since last year -- at 45 percent.
Math scores were low for sixth-graders -- down to only 47 percent meeting or exceeding standards. Of this year's seniors, 64 percent are meeting or exceeding math standards. Reading scores are higher, with the lowest percentage in third grade at 63 percent meeting or exceeding. This year's seniors tested at 82 percent meeting or exceeding.
Dallas High School Principal Steve Spencer will use the same program implemented last year to assure seniors are earning diplomas. It was 100 percent effective in 2012-13 for those students with enough credits to graduate.
Under the program, those seniors who need help with one or more standards are placed in a class where they are taught the skills needed to graduate.
"I look at the high school number around writing and while I'm worried about it, I know that last year we were able to get every student to pass their essential writing skills in order to graduate," said Christy Perry, Dallas' superintendent. "I know they have a plan and I know they have some instruction for those seniors this year."
Currently, only high school students are assessed in writing and only once during their junior year. That leaves districts to rely on their own testing to keep younger students on track
Dallas has made writing curriculum changes and is seeing encouraging results in its common core standards-based in-district assessments for younger students. Math curriculum at the elementary level has also been updated in recent years and grades 6-12 curriculum will change soon.
"I think we have some really promising practices and I think that's evident in places in our test results," Perry said.
The results of the latest ODE report of school district test scores were no surprise to Central School District.
Administrators began discussing this spring ways to bring up the expected low numbers at certain grade levels.
Hit the hardest in the report were fifth- and sixth-grade math. Only 39 percent of Central fifth-graders met or exceeded state standards. In sixth grade, 44 percent met or exceeded.
"We were very candid with the board at the end of last year that we were underperforming and that we had to address that universally as a district," Central Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said. "We're not looking for a quick fix. We're looking to provide our teachers and students the opportunities to have longitudinal growth performance-wise."
The district has begun implementing a new performance enhancement system geared toward engaging students at a more fundamental level through participation and hands-on teaching.
Transitioning to new common core state standards has proved difficult for some areas in Perrydale School District, much like districts across the state.
However, other areas, namely reading, are thriving in the district.
In third- through eighth-grade and 11th grade, the grades represented in the report, only fourth grade was below state averages in meeting or exceeding standards.
A focus on reading is a high priority for Perrydale, Superintendent Robin Stoutt said.
"We have a K-12 district focus on reading. At the middle school level we build in a two-hour block time for reading," she said.
Perrydale also excelled in science, which Stoutt attributed to the elementary and middle school levels' self-contained nature - students stay with the same teacher - allowing more flexibility when teaching certain subjects.
Falls City Superintendent Jack Thompson was out of the office since Thursday, but was able to review scores briefly Tuesday morning.
Overall, the district was below state average in math, with the exception of eighth grade that had 77 percent meet or exceed standards. The district was behind state averages in reading, but above in writing, where 67 percent of this year's seniors tested met standards.
Thompson pointed out with class sizes as small as eight students, the results could vary widely from year-to-year. However, he acknowledged the district's struggles.
The majority of this year's seniors still need to meet math standards. Falls City High School was not able to hire a part-time math teacher as planned. However, the high school science teacher, Micke Kidd, is in the process of earning a math endorsement and will teach math next year. He's overseeing use of the high school's online math program.
"His supervision will be different than what it has been in the past and it will be a huge benefit to those kids," Thompson said.
Thompson added K-5 math curriculum has been aligned with current state standards starting this year.
"We are making a lot of changes this year," Thompson said. "I'm hoping with a new direction, new curriculum and new technology that this is a totally different conversation next year."