Test scores bring smiles to district

Korach: Students, teachers do 'great job'

Superintendent Bill Korach wasn't all that surprised to learn that Lake Oswego School District students scored exceptionally well on state assessment tests this year.

Over the years, he's come to expect such high academic performance from schools in the district.

Right now, however, the timing couldn't be better.

The news that LOSD students are meeting and exceeding state standards at various grade levels helps to reinforce the district's new marketing plan, Korach said.

As part of the plan, officials aim to present the district as an affordable and competitive alternative to private schools and other public school districts. Students from outside Lake Oswego pay an annual tuition of $6,500 to attend.

'It is timely that the scores are as good as they are this year,' Korach said. 'We are definitely changing our mindset about how important it is to let people know what a great job our teachers and students do.'

The recently released 2006-07 assessment test scores in reading, writing and math present a great opportunity to communicate that idea to the public, Korach said.

'This is huge for us,' he added.

Oregon tests students at grades 3 through 8 and tests high school students at grade 10 for math and reading.

This year's tests are a little harder to compare to earlier years than most. Earlier this year, the state Board of Education decided to change its 'cut scores' - the score needed to pass - on all reading and math tests. For younger grades, the passing score was raised a few points, and for older grades, it was lowered.

'In some respects you're seeing an advantage but in elementary schools you're seeing a slight variation because of that,' said Donna Atherton, director of secondary education.

Second, students weren't able to complete their work online, multiple times, the way they usually are. A dispute between the state and its online testing agency last spring caused computer problems and an eventual shutdown, leaving schools to eliminate the science tests and give other tests, just once, by pencil and paper.

District officials believe the two changes had little, if any, negative effect on district results.

The district beat the state average in every category, and in some cases, the percentage of students who met state standards in certain grades nearly doubled the state average.

For example, in writing, 80.9 percent of fourth graders, 70.2 percent of seventh graders and 89.2 percent of tenth graders in the district met or exceeded state standards.

However, by comparison, only 45 percent of fourth graders, 48 percent of seventh graders and 55 percent of tenth graders did so at the state level.

The most notable increase in scores occurred at the tenth grade level, where marketing effects enrollment the most. The number of sophomores who met state standards jumped 6.3 percent in math, 10.4 percent in writing and 17.6 percent in reading.

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, in two categories, Riverdale.

'We're looking to see what districts nearby are doing and how they're performing versus how we're performing,' Atherton said.

There were a few undramatic drops in districtwide percentages. Fifth graders fell nearly 6 percent in math; seventh graders fell 4.5 percent in writing and fifth graders fell 0.8 percent in reading.

But the district is not concerned unless the scores drop significantly in consecutive years. Because different students are tested in each grade level from year-to-year, fluctuations are to be expected, Korach said.

Results are often also related to the size of the grade being tested.

'If we would see data points dip two years in a row we would want to know what's going on and do an investigation,' he said.

This year's scores are important to the district because they reflect what its students can achieve in the 'foundation skills.'

'They're keys to success across a wide range of areas,' Korach said. 'If you can't read, write or do math well, you're not going to have the doors open to you that you're going to want down the road.'