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Rhue rates state ratings

The Oregon Department of Education released ratings of Oregon schools on Oct. 10 for the 2012-13 school year

Eagle Creek Elementary and Estacada High School were rated as “Level 3,” slightly below the state average.

The junior high and Web Academy were given a “Level 2” rating, which means they were rated in the bottom 15 percent of schools, but were not in the bottom 5 percent of schools.

The Estacada All-Prep Early College and former Estacada Alternative High School were rated in the bottom 5 percent.

Clackamas River Elementary was not given a rating for 2012-13 because of its reconfiguration due to the closure of River Mill Elementary.

Estacada School Improvement Director Tina Rhue sat down with Estacada News to discuss the results.

She explained that the state ratings have changed their evaluation system for districts. Whereas state ratings used to rely heavily on standardized test scores, the new ratings are designed to weigh the “improvement of each individual kid,” along with the standardized test results and subgroup growth.

“The new accountability bases a huge amount not just on achievement but on growth,” she said.

Rhue explained that for elementary schools, only 25 percent of the school’s rating is based on standardized test scores, whereas 50 percent of the rating is based on all students’ academic growth, and 25 percent is based on subgroup growth.

This means that, for example, a student with a disability would have their test scores factored into the school’s test results, academic growth rating and subgroup growth rating.

“It’s really hard to bump this up,” Rhue said. “It’s so complex.”

Then there is the added problem that math questions are usually written as word problems in the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills standardized tests.

For students learning English, the tests are not simply gauging their math skills, but also their English language comprehension.

“It wouldn’t be a good indicator of the math skills if they are hung up on the language,” said Dan Draper, who is the English Language Learner (ELL) program director for the Estacada school district.

Rhue added that when looking at district-wide ratings on high school graduation rates and test scores, the ratings factor in only one traditional school and three charter schools.

The Estacada Web Academy, Estacada All-Prep Early College and the former Estacada Alternative High School frequently serve as credit recovery programs for students needing to get back on track when traditional schooling did not work for them.

Mathematically, it’s impossible for Estacada High School scores to outweigh low scores from three other schools.

Rhue said that in her view, the state ratings are not very helpful for a district with Estacada’s make-up.

It’s unfortunate, Rhue added, as a lot of people look at school district ratings when deciding whether to move to a new area.

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