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East County schools hold steady on grades from state

Most school leaders pleased with their newest report card scores

If East County schools were students, the vast majority would be getting Bs and Cs on their report cards.

According to the Oregon Department of Education's school report cards, issued this week, three East County schools would be 'A students,' two would get Ds, and none would fail.

The state's eighth annual report card evaluations gave most East County schools 'strong' or 'satisfactory' grades - 21 of the 50 schools evaluated in East County were strong; 22 were satisfactory - and leaders at Gresham-Barlow say they're pleased with the results.

'Overall, this was a good report card,' said Tim Drilling, head of assessment and staff development at Gresham-Barlow. 'We had four schools go from satisfactory to strong … and high school achievement is beginning to rise, with improvements noted in all academic areas.'

Gresham High's scores improved in every academic area tested, especially science. Although it isn't included in the school report card rating, nearly three-fourths of all Gresham High 10th-graders tested, about 72 percent, met state standards in science, compared to 64 percent at the state level.

'Science scores rose at all three benchmarks, in grades five, eight and 10,' Drilling said. 'Writing scores rose at the elementary and high school levels.'

The school report cards evaluate a school's attendance, dropout rates, class size, SAT scores, teacher education and experience, student test scores and expulsions due to weapons.

Statewide, schools reported high ratings, and State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo praised public educators.

'Every student, educator and parent can be proud of these ratings,' Castillo said. 'We have shown steady improvement in the face of declining budgets … imagine what Oregon schools could do if we gave our teachers everything they needed to do the best job possible for every student.'

Centennial, Corbett and Gresham-Barlow each claimed one of the area's three 'exceptional' schools - Lynch View Elementary in Centennial; Deep Creek Elementary in Gresham-Barlow; and Corbett High in Corbett.

The area's two 'low' performing schools are Centennial Learning Center and Gresham-Barlow's 4-year-old Springwater Trail High School.

'The issue at Springwater is the number of students tested,' Drilling said. 'Last year they tested 99 percent of students, but this year only 93 percent of students were tested, and that's below the state threshold.'

If a student didn't complete at least half of his or her test, the state would not count that student as having taken the state tests. This may be what happened at Springwater, Drilling said, but district leaders are still looking into the abnormal number of students tested.

Wendy Reif, spokeswoman for the Centennial School District, said Centennial Learning Center was extremely close to the 'satisfactory' rating.

'Centennial Learning Center should have had a satisfactory rating, but their participation was down just a fraction - they were off by one kid - and the principal is incredibly disappointed,' Reif said. 'It's difficult for an alternative school to get a satisfactory rating, and they've been working really hard at CLC to make it.'

Administrators throughout East County agree that the school report card should not be the only measurement used to judge a particular school.

'My impression is that the public looks at the final score, but we don't get calls from parents asking, 'Why did my child's school go from strong to satisfactory,?' ' Reif said. 'If you know nothing else about a school, you can use the report card as a measurement, but most parents are more concerned about other things like how their child is doing in school and if their child is happy in school.'