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Home arrow Opinion arrow Raising the bar

Raising the bar

We've moaned and groaned before about the resources poured into meeting state-mandated CIM and CAM standards and teaching kids so they can excel at state standardized tests.

Maybe we spoke too fast.

The Baker School District is taking the state standards seriously — and encouraging educators and students alike to do the same.

The results speak for themselves: in most testing areas. A higher percentage of Baker students meet or exceed the state's benchmark goals than the state as a whole.

Consider: During the 2001-2002 school year, 96 percent of 10th-graders met or exceeded the state's benchmark in writing, compared to 79 percent statewide.

That same year, 95 percent of the district's fifth-graders scored at or above the benchmark in mathematics, compared to 75 percent statewide.

In other categories, the disparity between Baker students and Oregon students as a whole is narrower.

But the message is clear: Our schools are getting some results.

How? Maybe the response to areas where Baker scored poorly will help explain. This year's ninth-graders, who took the tests last year as eighth- graders, only matched the state average in math, with 57 percent, and fell behind the state average of 64 percent in reading, with only 52 percent meeting the state benchmark.

Because the tests have been part of Baker school operations long enough that classes of students have been assessed at multiple levels, educators can compare the eighth-grade scores to the same group's fifth-grade scores. The result: Educators know almost half the class needs extra help with reading and math, and they intend to target efforts to try to improve student performance in those areas. Next year's testing in 10th grade will help gauge their success.

Even as our educators are finding successful ways to employ the standardized tests and integrate the CIM-CAM goals into the curriculum, however, some legislators — particularly those opposed to Measure 28 — are calling for them to be abandoned.

So, too, did failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, who questioned having the state Legislature as your school board.

So did this newspaper, for the same reasons. We worry that educators will be encouraged to "teach to the test." Our view is changing, and there is more to it than admirable test scores.

Teachers are changing the way writing, reading and even public speaking are included in the curriculum. They are "teaching across the curriculum" by calling on students to utilize their faculties in integrated ways.

Public speaking in the first grade? Writing in math?

Try this: Raising the bar, for students and educators alike.

 
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