Lower school test scores not a shock

By Chris Collins September 13, 2013 08:16 am

By Chris Collins

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As expected, changes to the way Oregon evaluates its students and a higher bar for meeting benchmarks has resulted in fewer districts satisfying requirements of state school improvement during the 2012-13 school year.

And students at Baker County schools and the North Powder Charter School were no exception.

The Oregon Department of Education released statewide test results Thursday for reading, writing, math and science.

“The percent of students meeting state standard declined except in high school reading and math,” Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton said in a press release.

That trend held true for the Baker School District for the most part, as well, with the percentage of Baker High School students meeting math standards dropping just 1 point (from 63.9 percent to 62.9 percent). And, the percentage of BHS students meeting reading standards increasing slightly (84.2 percent, up from 83.8 percent in 2011-12).

The percentage of BHS students meeting or exceeding the writing standard improved by four points (57.5 percent to 61.3 percent). That’s bucking the statewide trend, which saw a decline in the percentage of students meeting the writing standard.

The statewide average dropped by 7 percent, with 67 percent of high school students meeting or exceeding state writing standards a year ago and just 60 percent meeting writing standards this year.

The average percentage of students in Grades 3-8 who met the reading and math standards were mixed, but dropped slightly overall, the state report stated.

That trend continued in the Baker School District as well. Performance in science also showed little improvement statewide.

In the Baker School District, fifth-graders were a bright spot, making a 5.1 percent gain from 69.9 percent meeting science standards in 2011-12 to 75 percent this year. 

Superintendent Walt Wegener says the year-to-year comparison makes no sense.

“These scores all stand by themselves,” he said. “It’s unfair to look at 11-12 and see what we did in 12-13.

“They changed the test. They changed the cut scores. There it is.”

Wegener pointed out that Oregon was granted a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind school reform law, which would have required that all students meet benchmarks by 2014.

“If you set targets that are unreasonable ... chances are you will fail,” he said of the federal reform.

But to qualify for the waiver, Oregon has enacted its own plan that has put increased pressure on school districts to ensure student success.

“We are working really hard to see that students are proficient,” Wegener said.

And that begins with improving teacher performance, he said. Last year the district provided 5,000 hours of professional development to its staff with plans to do the same this year.

Wegener says the community should be proud of the work being done by the district. Last year’s test results brought Model School recognition to both Brooklyn Primary and Haines Elementary schools. And Nanette Lehman, who teaches second grade at Haines, was named Oregon Teacher of the Year.

“It’s the same kids, the same smarts and the same teaching. The tests are different,” Wegener says of the state’s 2012-13 report.

The Baker School District also is working to improve instruction to its English language learners. The district has failed to meet the state’s annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAO) for those students for the second year, according to a report released last week by the Department of Education.

The district’s 46 English language learners include Spanish-speaking students who live in Baker City and Russian students served by the Baker Web Academy from their homes in western Oregon. 

OTHER SCHOOLS:

North Powder Charter School:

Math – Grade 3, 28 percent met standards in 2012-13, down 24.4 percent from 52.4 percent in 2011-12; Grade 4, up 2.3 percent from 45.5 to 47.8; Grade 5, unchanged at 33.3 percent meeting standards both years; Grade 6, down 33.4 percent, from 66.7 percent to 33.3 percent; Grade 7, up 1 percent from 63 percent to 64 percent; Grade 8, up 10.6 percent, from 45 percent to 55.6 percent; and high school, up 39 percent from 46.7 percent to 85.7 percent.

 Reading – Grade 3, down 22.7 percent, from 66.7 percent meeting standards to 44 percent; Grade 4, up 6.1 percent from 59.1 to 65.2; Grade 5, down 11.3 percent, from 57.1 to 45.8; Grade 6, up 1.5 percent, from 55.6 percent to 57.1 percent; Grade 7, down 5.5 percent from 81.5 percent to 76 percent; Grade 8, down 4.4 percent, from 60 percent to 55.6 percent; and high school, up more than 9 percent from 86.7 percent to more than 95 percent.

 Science – Grade 5, down 25.6 percent, from 71.4 percent meeting standards to 45.8 percent; Grade 8, down 8.1 percent from 60 to 51.9; high school, down 6.6 percent, from 73.3 to 66.7.

Writing – High school, down 7.6 percent from 60 percent meeting standards in 2011-12 to 52.4 percent meeting standards in 2012-13.

Pine-Eagle Charter School

Math – Grade 3, down 3.8 percent, from 53.8 percent meeting standards to 50 percent; Grade 4, down 2.1 percent from 54.5 to 52.4. Grade 5, down 24.5 percent, from 70 percent to 45.5 percent; Grade 6, down 25.6 percent, from 92.3 percent to 66.7 percent; Grade 7, up 9.1 percent, from 43.8 percent to 52.9 percent; Grade 8, down 29.2 percent from 69.2 to 40; high school, up 16.9 percent, from 70.6 to 87.5.

Reading – Grade 3, up 9.5 percent, from 61.5 percent meeting standards to 70 percent; Grade 4, down 1.3 percent from 72.7 to 71.4. Grade 5, down 34.5 percent, from 80 percent to 45.5 percent; Grade 6, down 1.3 percent, from 84.6 to 83.3; Grade 7, up 7.7 percent, from 68.8 to 76.5; Grade 8, down 24.6 percent from 84.6 to 60; high school, up 5.6 percent, from 88.2 to 93.8.

Science – Grade 5, down 17.3 percent, from 90 percent meeting standards to 72.7 percent; Grade 8, down 5.6 percent from 92.3 percent to 86.7 percent; high school, up 11.4 percent, from 82.4 to 93.8.

Writing – High school, down 14 percent from 76.5 percent meeting standards in 2011-12 to 62.5 percent meeting standards in 2012-13.

Few details were available for the Huntington School District and none was available for the Burnt River School District at Unity because of the districts’ small enrollment.

For more information about test scores statewide, go to the Department of Education’s website: www.ode.state.or.us.