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Beaverton schools hit jackpot on state writing test scores

Beaverton students' writing scores soared in this year's state assessment tests.

The Oregon report card for the state's third-largest school district found that math, science and reading scores held steady in 2005-06.

'Writing was our biggest jump,' said Dee Carlson, assessment coordinator for the Beaverton School District. 'We had good writing gain.'

Fourth-grade writing scores went from 42 percent to 62 percent from a year ago. Seventh-graders' scores rose from 48 percent to 60 percent; and eighth-grade scores increased from 65 percent to 71 percent.

Since 2004, the district has stressed increasing academic scores with a special emphasis on literacy and mathematics.

Many of the district's Title 1 elementary schools (those with a high percentage of students coming from lower income brackets) made big improvements in writing including fourth-graders at Barnes, 14.3 percent to 44.4 percent; Beaver Acres, 20.5 to 72.6 percent; and Fir Grove, 29.4 to 54.7 percent.

Jan McCall, a Title 1 coordinator and a K-5 literacy specialist last year, credited the building principals, teachers and literacy coaches for the improvements.

'They are quite good,' McCall said of the scores. 'It was a real concerted focused.'

The 2005-06 school year was the second year that elementary schools had individual literacy coaches, said McCall, who is principal of Kinnaman Elementary School.

Programs that helped aid in that effort included a district-funded program that allowed kindergarten through third-graders to meet to discuss literacy issues for a half-day each trimester.

'Many schools use that time to focus on writing papers,' said McCall.

Also, the district's 11 Title 1 schools offered monthly, voluntary development for Title 1 staff, and some teachers held professional book club meetings to discuss books dedicated to writing.

In addition, McCall praised the work of Kelly Boswell, a half time literacy coach at Fir Grove, for helping with the push to boost elementary writing scores.

Meanwhile, other district scores remained relatively stable, in part because they were already high, according to Carlson.

'Of course we would have liked to jump up more,' she said.

Still, there were individual schools that showed noticeable increases including reading improvements for third-graders at William Walker, Vose and McKinley elementary schools.

Walker increased from 83 percent to 94 percent; Vose rose from 58 percent to 84 percent; and McKinley 80 percent to 90 percent. Reading scores for fifth-graders at Vose were strong as well, rising from 69 percent to 79 percent.

Other increases included:

Science: Fifth-graders overall went from 83 percent to 88 percent.

Math: 'We had some schools with gigantic gains,' said Carlson.

Those included third-graders at Vose, 63 percent to 83 percent, and McKinley, 80 percent to 92 percent.