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Strong scores

School scores are pleasing overall

The statewide test results are in, and overall, Lake Oswego School District officials have reason to be pleased.

'Our scores across the board continue to be very strong,' said Steve Sherrell, interim director of secondary programs.

District officials pointed to a particularly noteworthy accomplishment: More than 95 percent of third and fifth grade students met the standards in both reading/literature and mathematics.

The biggest puzzler for the district is some widely varied writing scores at the elementary level, said Superintendent Bill Korach.

Last year's district average for fourth grade writing was 80 percent meeting the standards, while more than 95 percent 'nearly met,' according the state. A 'nearly meets' is earned from a combination of state tests and district tests. For example, in fourth grade, students must earn 32 points to meet the standard for the state level, however if they earn 28-31 points and have also completed work samples in the classroom, then they 'nearly meet' standards.

This year the district saw only 69 percent of fourth graders meet and 86 percent nearly met standards. Some elementary schools were particularly low. At Bryant Elementary, only 50 percent of fourth graders met standards, while 72 percent nearly met. At Westridge, 58 percent met and 81 percent nearly met. Only Palisades, Lake Grove and River Grove seemed to stay within the same range as last year's scores. Lake Grove's students matched last year's with 82 percent meeting standards and more than 95 percent conditionally meeting.

'This is the one anomaly that we really don't have an explanation for,' said Korach. 'You've got the same teachers teaching the same curriculum. It's a different group of kids. But it still makes no sense to us.'

Korach has talked to elementary principals, who are also concerned about the scores.

'We're certainly going to take it very seriously and really work on it this year. We've brought the ESD writing specialist into the picture,' said Korah. 'And we're having tests rescored.'

The numbers baffle the district, given the high scores in all other areas.

Another area to work on is preparing the class of 2012 - last year's eighth graders - for the state's new graduation requirements.

Like other districts across the state, eighth grade scores are slightly down. In LOSD, eighth grade scores dipped from 88 percent meeting or exceeding standards in reading and literature in 2006-2007 to 84 percent last year. There was also a slight decrease in math from 90 percent to 89 percent.

'We're a small school district, so it doesn't take much to cause a fluctuation. One percent is about six kids,' said Sherrell. 'This is definitely a group that we are going to continue to look at and focus on as they move into high school.'

State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo said that educators must focus on this class across the state.

'As we continue to implement Oregon's new high school diploma requirements, students at all grades must make sustained improvement in reading, math, writing, and science in order to be on track to graduate.'

The data from the statewide assessment tests is analyzed in two different ways:

* It is a big part of the formula for the Annual Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind laws. The AYP is heavily based on achievement and improvement in subgroups (economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English language learners and racial and/or ethnic groups) as well as the whole student group. Final AYP results will be released soon.

* The assessment data will be analyzed for the state report card and included along with data on attendance, SAT scores and graduation rates.The state report card will be released in October.

Overall, the district beat the state average in every category. It also placed Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools among the top public high schools in the state. Together, they outscored West Linn-Wilsonville, Tigard-Tualatin and Beaverton in both reading/literature and math.

It's a bit difficult to compare tests to last year for a number of reasons. Last year, the Oregon Deparment of Education had a contract dispute with its testing vendor that affected the outcome. Computer problems eliminated the science tests and forced teachers to administer the tests, typically done online, the old fashioned way - with a pencil and paper. Despite contract woes, the state has done it's best to compute the scores to the same standard.

In addition, the state has once again changed the 'cut scores' - the score needed to pass - on all reading and math tests.