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Students listen to an Egypt Week presentation at Dallas Community School earlier this year. The Oregon School Boards Association recently completed a report on the two charter school the Dallas School District sponsors, DCS and Luckiamute Valley Charter School. 

DALLAS — An Oregon School Boards Association review of the two charter schools the Dallas School District sponsors shows advancement in some areas and room for improvement in others.

Kristen Miles, OSBA’s board development and charter school authorizer consultant, presented her reviews to the Dallas School Board on Feb. 25.

The review evaluated how the schools performed in three areas: academic, financial and organization.

Dallas Community School saw its test scores drop slightly in English and significantly in math from the previous evaluation.

“Performance has declined in English language arts the last three years, slightly last year,” Miles said. “In math, they had a sharp decrease from the year before, so I would recommend to them that they make a plan to improve student performance in reading and math.”

Miles said in the last evaluation, the school had 84 percent of its student participate in state testing.

“Last year, they had 92 percent of the students participate,” she said. “They continue to make efforts to get students to participate.”

DCS works with home-school families that has parents providing instruction with the oversight of a guide, a licensed teacher who helps create educational plans. School Executive Director Bill Conlon said not all families are amenable to taking state tests.

“One of the things that we think has happened with our scores is we’ve really put a lot of pressure on our families to participate in the test. As a result of that, I think some of our families met the minimum. They told their kids to meet the minimum participation level, which meant that our overall scores dropped,” Conlon said. “As our participation went up, those families who are adamant that they don’t want to participate in state testing did and dropped our scores.”

Board member Dave Hunt asked what the school is doing to improve academic performance.

“Don’t take it personal because you guys have worked really hard, and I know that, but at some point, instruction hours should equate to score improvement,” Hunt said. “We are still sliding down. Is there a sense that is going to change? To me ultimately, the biggest reflection on how well this is going is that those kids’ scores start to come up.”

Conlon said the school is preparing for the next round of testing with the goal of showing better results.

Miles said the school is financially stable and made notable improvements to its organizational structure, including revisions to its bylaws, handbook and director evaluation.

“They’ve worked hard on this this year, and I commend them for that,” Miles said. “I still have questions about how they are meeting instructional requirements. I know that they are potentially looking at a bill that may be introduced in the legislature this year that would specifically indicate how home-based charter schools are to track instructional hours.”

Conlon said the school introduced an online program that allows parents to track teaching time at home. It’s had mixed results.

“We are still doing that, and we have some parents who are very cooperative with that and others, not so much,” Conlon said. “It’s been an ongoing piece of work for us this year, but we are certainly still implementing that.”

Miles said Luckiamute Valley Charter School’s test scores in reading and math overall improved in the 2017-18 school year. She said most student sub-groups — those identified as belonging to certain to groups identified by race, economic status or as having a disability — also demonstrated improvement over the previous year.

She noted that attendance is an area that needs work.

“Their attendance dropped kind of significantly from the previous year. I believe they were down to something like 70 percent regular attenders,” Miles said. “My suggestion to them is to make a plan to improve attendance.”

Miles also recommended the school continue to work on its plan to boost academic performance.

“They should continue to implement their plan of improving both reading and math, with a focus on the lowest performing groups,” Miles said. “And I know that they are currently working on that, which is why we saw increases this last year.”

Financially, she said LVCS appeared to be stable and met all organizational standards for the evaluation this year. Last year, the school didn’t.

“They made significant improvement to their bylaws to come into compliance with public meetings laws,” Miles said. “They continue to have a strong leader whose focus is on systems improvement and school improvement.”

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