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Beaverton schools top state marks in Smarter Balanced testing

Superintendent: 'I'm definitely proud, but I'm not satisfied'


TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Andres Correa and Anderson Ball talk about a math problem in their Hazeldale third grade class.Oregon students as a whole performed better than expected in the first round of new statewide tests, and Beaverton students soared well above their statewide peers, according to recently released results of last year’s testing.

Both state and local educators said they considered the results of the so-called Smarter Balanced tests encouraging, but a limited measure of student progress.

On average, nearly two-thirds (64.4 percent) of Beaverton School District students’ language arts scores showed that they are on track to graduate ready for college or a career. The test results showed that 57.2 percent of the district’s students reached the same benchmark for mathematics and 71.6 percent hit it for science.

In each subject, the district’s average scores were well above the statewide averages for their peers. The numbers were particularly striking in math, where district students outperformed state averages by more than 16 percentage points.

“I’m definitely proud, but I’m not satisfied,” Superintendent Jeff Rose said last week. He said educators across the district would continue working to make sure more students were prepared for the next steps in their lives, whether they are headed off to college or into the workforce.

Because this is the first year the Smarter Balanced tests were administered to most students (a segment of students had been tested last year in a pilot program), it sets a baseline to measure future progress but can’t be meaningfully compared to earlier generations of tests. Compared to earlier testing methods, the new approach requires students to not just provide correct answers but also be prepared to explain how they arrived at them.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Hazeldale second grader Miki Rocke works on a spelling lesson, along with her classmates.

Generally speaking, district schools located in wealthier neighborhoods fared far better on the tests. The schools north of Sunset Highway dominated the high scores, with another pocket of good scores also found at the well-heeled southern end of the district. The lowest scores most often came from Beaverton and Aloha’s older and lowest-income neighborhoods.

Not surprisingly, students who are still learning English also scored lower than native speakers. Many students from a range of ethnic groups or those with disabilities struggled more than students who identified themselves as white or Asian.

The trends in Beaverton mirrored results among sub-groups of students tested across Oregon.

Superintendent Rose said he was pleased that those groups in Beaverton consistently outperformed their counterparts elsewhere in the state, but said he was still disheartened that the gulfs are similarly wide between different groups of students in Beaverton.

“This is something that we should all pay attention to and have a sense of urgency around,” he said.

Rose said Beaverton schools have ratcheted up academic programs in a number of ways, including strengthening collaboration and investing in academic improvement programs such as summer school programs for sixth- and ninth-graders, and launching the Advancement Via Individual Determination program.

Voter approval of a five-year operating levy in 2013 may have helped as well, allowing the district to refill many of the educator positions lost during the recession, and resulting in smaller class sizes and strengthened academic support programs many districts can’t afford.

Rose cautioned patrons not to put too much weight on Smarter Balanced test scores, which are simply one of many available tools to measure the progress of students.

“This is one slice of data, which doesn’t give us a true indication of learning or progress,” he said. “Learning is more complex than one score can give us.”

Further, Rose cautioned, test scores also aren’t a very good measure of the quality of educators.

With that as a caveat, what follows is a brief look at some of the extremes within the Beaverton School District.

To reiterate, the highest-performing schools tend to be those that serve more neighborhoods where household incomes are higher than the district average and those students tend to arrive in class with more advantages.

At the other end, lower-performing schools often serve populations where larger numbers of students live in poverty or grew up in families where English is a new language.

Elementary Schools

Jacob Wismer and Findley at the north end of the district were the highest-performing elementary schools in the district. At Jacob Wismer, 90.5 percent of students in language arts and 92 percent of students in math were deemed on track. Findley was a close second with 88.3 percent in language arts and 89.9 percent in math.

At the other end of the scale, only about a third of students at Barnes on Walker Road were on track in language arts (33.7 percent) and mathematics (30 percent), and that number dipped to about a quarter of third-graders. Nearby, William Walker students also struggled, with 39.4 percent prepared for language arts and 36.7 percent doing well in math.

Middle Schools

Stoller, at the district’s north end, was the leader among the middle schools, with 82.8 percent of students proficient in language arts and 81.4 percent scoring well in math. At Conestoga on the southern side of the district, more than six in 10 students did well in both subjects.

Five Oaks and Mountain View were on the other end of the scale. At Five Oaks in the north-central part of the district, 47.5 percent of students were ready in language arts and 39.9 percent in math. At Mountain View in Aloha, the numbers were 51.8 percent in language arts and 35.8 percent in math.

High Schools

Southridge aced the English exams among the district’s large high schools with 85.8 percent of students meeting expectations and finished second in math with 57.6 percent of students hitting the mark.

Sunset paced the comprehensive high schools in math with 58.7 percent of students on track, while its language arts marks placed it third with 77.7 percent of students doing well.

Westview had the second-highest percentage of students faring well in language arts (82.5 percent) and third-most in math (50.3 percent).

Aloha landed at the bottom of both the math tests (18.8 percent proficiency) and language arts (44.3 percent).

Beaverton was next with 57 percent making the grade in language arts and 37 percent in math.

K-8 Schools

Springville in the north end of the district was the top scorer with 72.9 percent of students ready in language arts and 77.1 percent in math. Aloha-Huber Park was at the low end with 46.5 percent for language arts and 46.7 percent for math. Raleigh Hills landed in the middle.

Options Schools

The following programs have specially designed curriculum to meet student needs and interests and generally have smaller numbers of students who come from around the district.

The best scores came from the School of Science & Technology (over 95 percent prepared in English and 83.3 percent in math) and the International School of Beaverton (94.9 percent English and 84.2 percent math).

Students at the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy had strong language arts scores (79 percent on track) but fewer than half of its students hit the mark in math (45.4 percent).

Health & Science was in the middle with 65.8 percent proficiency in English and 53.7 percent in math.

The Community School, the district’s alternative school, had 52 percent of students prepared in language arts, but just 10.2 percent met expectations in math.

In the language-based schools, Arco Iris Spanish Immersion School students (grades K-8) fared well with an average of 81.1 percent proficiency in English and 73.5 percent in math. At Hope Chinese Charter School, third-graders did well in both subjects too, with 78.9 percent ready in English and 89.5 percent in math.