Metolius rated 'exceptional'
Metolius Elementary was one of only four schools in Central Oregon to receive an exceptional rating on the State Report Card, released by the Oregon Department of Education, Oct. 11.
The State Report Card gives schools ratings of exceptional, strong, satisfactory or unacceptable, based on test scores, attendance, dropout rate, and other factors. School improvement is factored on a two-year average of data.
In the 509-J School District, Big Muddy and Buff elementary schools were not rated, due to being too small or too new to have enough data.
Jefferson County Middle School received a strong rating for the second year in a row; Madras Elementary, Warm Springs Elementary and Westside Elementary all earned satisfactory ratings; but Madras High School dropped from low in 2004-05 to a rating of unacceptable for the 2005-06 school year.
Metolius Elementary Principal Josh Adams attributed his school's success to several factors.
"We have a low staff turnover with teachers who are experienced, professional and committed to helping students achieve," Adams said.
Strong programs are in place at the Metolius school, which has an enrollment of 220, and small classrooms with an average of 19 students.
Adams said the school's reading program, begun five years ago, has students read every day in small groups, according to their reading level.
"That was a big, driving force on our high scores. Success in reading (leads to) kids wanting to come to school and helps with behavior. Students do better when they're feeling good about themselves," Adams noted.
While an exceptional rating is rare, Adams feels Metolius' was the most notable because of the school's demographics, where 65 percent of the students are Hispanic and English language learners and 84 percent are economically disadvantaged.
"Typically, with those demographics there are challenges to students learning. What's notable is those students are achieving here," he pointed out.
The other three schools receiving exceptional ratings were High Lakes Elementary, Lava Ridge Elementary and R.E. Jewell Elementary, all in Bend.
Other factors for success at Metolius Elementary are strong parent involvement, a full-time English language teacher, three bilingual teacher's assistants, and teachers and office staff who work hard to communicate with English and Spanish-speaking parents.
While the Metolius staff and students are celebrating, they are also looking toward the future.
"We've patted ourselves on the back, but our goal now is to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. We'd like to get an exceptional rating two years in a row," Adams said.
Madras High School Principal Gary Carlton said lower test scores in the area of writing were what pushed MHS from a low to an unacceptable rating.
"We gained in three out of the four areas tested, but our writing was down, as it was all over the district," Carlton said.
Carlton said MHS students showed an increase on the math test, had a good gain on the science test and a gain on the reading test. But the gains weren't big enough to offset the overall score.
Schools need a 10 percent increase over the number of students who passed state standards the previous year to be considered "Safe Harbor" schools (those moving in the right direction).
"It becomes a numbers game because the numbers build on each other each year, which makes it harder (to make Safe Harbor)," Carlton said.
Schools with a low or unacceptable rating are required to file an improvement plan with the state within 90 days. The only other Central Oregon school scoring an unacceptable rating was Marshall High, an alternative high school in Bend.
To improve, Carlton said MHS will begin using the new Step Up To Writing program, which is being implemented districtwide. The staff will select new language textbooks this year to meet objectives in writing; Best Practices in teaching will be reviewed; and the school will continue to help students be successful in life in general, as a way to help them be successful in school.
With test gains in three areas, Carlton admitted, "Being told you're unacceptable is rather hard to take."
In Culver School District No. 4, Culver Middle School maintained its strong rating for the second year, while Culver Elementary and Culver High jumped up a notch from a satisfactory rating in 2004-05 to a strong rating on the 2005-06 State Report Card.
Stefanie Gerber, principal at Culver Elementary, attributed the score improvement to the hard work of all the teachers.
"Over the past two years we've implemented some new programs and we're finally starting to see the payoff," Gerber said, noting students' reading and math skills were stronger.
"The staff are also really committed to helping those students who aren't making progress. In learning, one size doesn't fit all," Gerber said.
Culver High Principal Bill Perkins is new this year, but pointed out two areas he feels impacted the State Report Card score.
"First and foremost, we are a small school. Enrollment this year was 220, which makes it an ideal size for students to develop a connection with teachers," Perkins said.
For students who fall behind in their studies CHS has a mandatory one-hour after-school tutoring program.
"We have mandatory tutoring for kids having trouble. We start to do something (for the student) at three weeks and have more strenuous steps at six weeks," Perkins said.