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District fares better in middle school reading, math scores

Crook County School District official takes exception to earlier Oregonian story's accuracy
Sometimes a newspaper gets a story right. And then well...sometimes it's not quite on target.
   That's apparently what happened in a Dec. 2, 2007, Sunday Oregonian article with the headline "Schools leave dollars behind," which included information about Crook County Middle School.
   "At least 25 Oregon schools whose students are behind in reading and math have turned down federal aid intended to help those students learn more, an analysis by The Oregonian has found," reads the lead. "Spurning the money - typically $200,000 a year - allows a school to dodge consequences and pressure to improve brought by the federal No Child Left Behind law."
   A district can get the money, which provides extra tutoring and more teacher training for helping academically at-risk students.
   Crook County School District Curriculum Director Dennis Kostelecky was familiar with the article in question, saying that first, schools do not turn down money.
   "What school districts do is school districts determine how best to use Title 1 funds, No Child Left Behind funds, to help children in their district," Kostelecky said. "In Crook County we have decided to use our Title 1 funds and other money, as well to supplement full-day kindergarten, because we know that the earlier we can catch deficiencies in kids, the better off these children will be. The better they'll learn and retain skills."
   Kostelecky's comments come a week before education officials tour the Crook County School District to see how the district is complying with the federal act.
   "So the district has chosen to use Title 1 funds for elementary reading and math in the form of full-day kindergarten and in supplementary help to students who fall behind," Kostelecky said.
   "Last year, when we started talking about the middle school achievement, in reading and math our school was on a par with the state performance," he said.
   CCMS Principal Rocky Miner could not be reached by press deadline this morning for comments on the changes in the reading and math results.
   In 2006-2007, 74 percent of students statewide met or exceeded reading benchmarks. By comparison, 71 percent of CCMS students tested met those marks.
   As for math, 73 percent of students across Oregon met or exceeded the benchmarks, compared with 70 percent of CCMS students.
   "So we are on par with the state," he said.
   Kostelecky emphasized several points, and added that the middle school is actually doing better than had been reported.
   "The district didn't turn down any money," he continued. "We still get the same amount of money, but we allocated that money to the elementary schools, again, to pay for the extended day kindergarten program."
   Kostelecky said that in education, teachers get a "bigger bang for the buck" if they choose to serve children who are younger and have academic deficiencies.
   In reading, the middle school has made improvements.
   For example, in 2003-2004 61 percent met or exceeded benchmarks. That increased to 65 percent in 2004-2005, 69 percent in the 2005-2006 academic year and 71 percent in the 2006-2007 year.
   Likewise, in math, CCMS also saw similar gains.
   In 2003-2004 52 percent of students met or exceeded benchmarks. That increased to 60 percent in 2004-2005, 63 percent in 2005-2006 and 70 percent this past school year.
   "I think the middle school, as you can see, is making pretty good progress, because the line is going up," Kostelecky noted.
   "What I would like to emphasize is that school districts do not turn down any money," he said. "We receive the same amount of money that we would have received and we have chosen to allocate it to our elementary schools, because as you can see our middle school is doing OK."