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District sees decline in high school state testing

Elementary, middle school performance is on the rise


The Oregon Department of Education released student performance results of the 2011-12 state assessments Wednesday. The results included scores in reading, mathematics, writing and science.

The majority of elementary and middle school students across the West Linn-Wilsonville School District made improvements from last year’s test scores. However, high school scores — excluding results in writing — dropped slightly across the board.

The district’s numbers mirrored statewide results.

The State Board of Education adopted higher expectations for elementary and middle school students in reading and science for the 2011-12 school year. High school expectations remained the same.

The reading test was the same test administered in 2010-11, however students last year had to achieve higher scores in order to make the standard.

The science test was completely altered. In 2009, new science learning standards were phased into classroom instruction. The new curriculum focuses on “big ideas” such as scientific inquiry, problem solving and engineering design.

Due to the change in curriculum, the state science test was altered to include more problem-based constructed response items.

In addition to changes in the test and classroom content, the State Board also adopted slightly higher expectations for fifth and eighth grade students in science. However the 2011-12 school year was the first time students were tested on the new standards.

Although a different test was administered, officials from the Oregon Department of Education said last year’s science test results could be compared to the new results.

Oregon Department of Education officials said they anticipated fewer students achieving academic expectations in both reading and science.

“When you raise the bar not everyone is going to get over it the first try,” said Crystal Greene, senior program and accountability officer with the Oregon Department of Education. “But we set that bar and kids are making progress toward it.”

The prediction shined trued in both the district and state.

“This year’s test results highlight both areas of great progress and areas of great concern,” Acting Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton said. “Our elementary and middle school students continue to rise to the challenge of higher expectations, but the high school results this year are not where they need to be. ...

“High school performance was flat or down in every subject. I know our high schools are working hard, but clearly something has to change because we are not moving in the right direction.”

Math results

West Linn-Wilsonville students in third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eight grade increased their math scores from last year. However fourth grade and high school students’ test scores decreased by less then 1 percent compared to last year.

The percentage of students that met or exceeded math expectations include:

  • 82.1 percent of third-graders

  • 82.6 percent of fourth-graders

  • 82.1 percent of fifth-graders

  • 76.9 percent of sixth-graders

  • 77.8 percent of seventh-graders

  • 75.4 percent of eighth-graders

  • 78. 1 percent of high schoolers

    Reading results

    Consistent with ODE’s prediction, the new achievement standards resulted in fewer West Linn-Wilsonville students meeting expectations in reading. However, when last year’s test scores were held to the same standard as this year, the third through eighth grade test scores showed increased learning. However high school test scores decreased by 3 percent this year, even if held to last year’s standards.

    The percentage of students that met or exceeded reading expectations include:

  • 84 percent of third-graders

  • 86.9 percent of fourth-graders

  • 83.2 percent of fifth-graders

  • 79 percent of sixth-graders

  • 81.3 percent of seventh-graders

  • 78.4 percent of eighth-graders

  • 88.1 percent of high schoolers

    Science results

    Despite the new achievement standards required for science, students in fifth and eighth grade increased their scores from last year even if held to last year’s standards.

    However, high school student’s test scores decreased by approximately 4 percent this year in science, even if held to last year’s standards. The percentage of students that met or exceeded science expectations include:

  • 87.5 percent of fifth-graders

  • 78.9 percent of eighth-graders

  • 78 percent of high schoolers

    Writing

    This year, 84.3 percent of high school students met or exceeded writing expectations compared to 78 percent last year.

    New standards, statewide results

    Over the past several years, Oregon has set new, more rigorous expectations for elementary and middle school students to better prepare them for high school and beyond.

    In 2010, the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards — rigorous national learning expectations aligned with international standards. Oregon is one of more than 45 states to adopt these standards.

    Under Oregon’s assessment system, high school students are tested in reading, writing, math and science. Students in third through eighth grade take both reading and math tests each year.

    Science is administered in fifth and eighth grades (in addition to high school), and writing tests are administered to juniors who have not previously passed their writing assessment.

    When expectations go up, it’s not surprising to see an initial drop in the percent of students meeting the standard, said Crystal Greene, senior program and accountability offer with the Oregon Department of Education.

    This year, Oregon students increased reading scores in elementary and middle school, but the percent of students meeting the standard was down due to the change in reading expectations that went into effect last year. High school performance increased by less than 1 percent. Overall, 72 percent of Oregon students met or exceeded reading expectations.

    However, unlike in reading, this year’s science results do not show an increase in student learning. Results show that student’s science test scores dropped at every grade level. Overall, 66 percent of Oregon students met or exceeded science expectations.

    “Our state made a commitment to rigorous college and career ready expectations in English and math,” Saxton said. “We need to make a similar level of commitment to science if we are going to ensure our students are ready for today’s competitive, technology-rich world. Proficiency in the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — will only become more vital in the years to come.”

    Due to budget cuts, the legislature eliminated fourth and seventh grade writing tests for the 2011-12 school year. Today, only juniors take the writing assessment. This year, 67 percent of high school students in Oregon met or exceeded writing standards. That percentage is down 1 percent from last year.

    In math, results were mixed. The percent of elementary and middle school students meeting or exceeding the state standard went up at every grade, but high school performance dropped 3 percent. Overall, 63 percent of Oregon students met or exceeded science expectations.

    “We did see a drop in the percent of kids meeting standards, which was expected,” Greene said. “There are definitely some things in the reports that are really disheartening and frustrating. The results really point to the work that is left to be done to get kids ready for college and career.

    Officials from the West-Linn Wilsonville School district could not be reached for comment as of press time.