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School district to hire coordinators to raise student scores

According the Crook County School District Superintendent Gary Peterson, the focus throughout the district this year will be on improving test scores.
   "Reading held pretty steady, but math dropped off at every grade level in terms of the number of students meeting the benchmarks," Peterson said. "I get the question a lot as to why our scores are low in various areas. It's a hard question to answer because it sounds like you're giving excuses when you respond. I don't know in some of the areas why they are where they are."
   The overall trend for student scores across Oregon is actually no different than it is in Crook County. Scores at the lower grade levels range in the 90 percent compliance bracket. The higher grade level up one goes, the lower the number of students score at meeting or exceeding the standards. Although the percentages in Crook County tend to fall at the more dramatic levels compared to many other school districts, they are generally less than a dozen points off of the State averages.
   Peterson indicated that test score improvement is at the top of the list of priorities this year, something that he will personally delve into, with the help of curriculum coordinator Dennis Kostelecky. "One of the things that I want to do this year is take a look at, and do some data analysis to get a handle on, what's going on here," Peterson said.
   He added that narrowing the problem down to particular strands or specific study areas where students are showing difficulty will be one part of the analysis process. Then weighing that information against where the district stands according to the implementation of State recommended curriculum will follow.
   "We're finding that we're not making sufficient progress, particularly in math. For example at the 10th grade level we've stayed the same over the last three years," explained Kostelecky. "What we're going to have to do is look at those test scores and those individual strands and have the teachers do the same, so that we can align our curriculum with the needs of the kids. I think that if we're able to do that then we're going to be able to make better improvements than we have over the past three years."
   To help implement the new strategy will be the placement of benchmark coordinators at each of the schools, made possible through recently appointed State funding to improve scores. "We'd like to make some impact on this year's scores," Kostelecky said. "However those tests are given in April and that doesn't give us much time, but I think we can have some impact."
   The new benchmark coordinators will be working in areas of reading, math, science and social science directly with teachers. Kostelecky explained that the coordinators will have access to the data compiled by the curriculum office which they will be using to identify problem areas both generally as well as with individual students.
   "If we can get kids on track kindergarten through third grade, then they're more likely to stay on track as they get older, but we're still going to see some dropping off," Kostelecky explained. "It's going to be very difficult to maintain a 90 percent meet or exceed level at the 10th grade level, even though they have that at the fifth grade level. There are so many variables that it's a difficult percentile to achieve."
   The long-term goal is to have students up to the 90 percent meeting or exceeding level by the 2004-05 school year.