Of the Baker City Herald

The Baker School District staff has weathered difficult times in the past year as they have watched their ranks reduced and supplies cut because of funding shortfalls.

But district administrators heap praise on the teachers for the hard work that has resulted in consistently high student test scores in most areas of the curriculum.

andquot;Despite adverse times, the staff continues to work hard and that is reflected in our test scores,andquot; said Beth Bigelow, who serves as the district's director of instruction/federal programs. She also is principal of Haines and Keating elementary schools.

andquot;That is just one indication of how well our schools are doing,andquot; Bigelow said, pointing also to the district's success in its sports, music and other programs.

andquot;The teachers work really hard, and you see it in the test scores, and you see it when you're going through these schools,andquot; she said.

The highest success in 2001-2002 came in the area of 10th-grade writing where 96 percent of the students tested scored at or above the state benchmark goal, compared with a statewide average of 79 percent.

Another top effort for the year showed 95 percent of the district's fifth-graders meeting the benchmark goal in mathematics, compared with 75 percent statewide.

Benchmarks are the standards established by the state Department of Education to demonstrate proficiency in a specific subject area. The standards are part of the Oregon Legislature's Oregon Education Act for the 21st Century, first adopted in 1991.

Bigelow is traveling throughout the community to share the good news about district test scores in the area of reading, math and writing with staff, parents and other community residents. The tests are required annually for students in Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. Students must meet benchmark standards at each level on the way to earning a Certificate of Initial Mastery before graduating.

Eighty-nine percent of the district's third-graders scored at or above the benchmark goal in reading and 85 percent met the same goal in mathematics, according to the district's report of 2001-2002 assessment scores. Statewide, an average 85 percent of third-graders met reading goals and 77 percent met mathematics goals.

Eighty-nine percent of the district's fifth-graders met the benchmark goal in reading and 73 percent met the benchmark goal in writing. Statewide, 79 percent met reading goals and 69 percent met the writing benchmark standards.

Baker eighth-graders continued to perform above the statewide average in writing with 81 percent meeting the benchmark goal compared with 66 percent statewide. Math scores held steady with the state average with 57 percent of Baker eighth-graders and those across the state meeting the benchmark goal.

Scores dipped in the area of reading however, with 52 percent of Baker's eighth-graders meeting the benchmark goal, compared with the statewide average of 64 percent.

These same students, this year's ninth-grade class, scored low in reading and math as fifth-graders, according to Mindi Vaughan, co-principal at the Baker Middle School who also teaches Junior Discovery at Baker High School and coordinates the district's testing programs.

They will be receiving extra help in those areas to help more of them meet benchmark goals, she told the Baker School Board during its December meeting.

Tenth-graders continued to top the statewide average in reading with 74 percent of Baker's sophomores reaching the benchmark goal, compared with 53 percent across the state. In math, 58 percent of Baker's 10th-graders met standards, compared with 45 percent statewide.

Vaughan is working to improve students' attitudes about testing by making it an enjoyable experience and congratulating those who reach the goals, she said in her report to the board.

She attributes Baker High School's high scores and progress in students achieving their CIMs to the andquot;removal of barriers,andquot; including attitudes among educators that Oregon school reform requirements would soon disappear; promoting the state standards and assessments as andquot;worthwhile workandquot;; and congratulating teachers and students for academic excellence.

Vaughan said BHS recognizes seniors who meet the CIM benchmark at the Senior Farewell Assembly, at the annual awards program and on their diplomas. Assessment scores, work samples and CIM completion also are noted on each student's transcript.