Grad rates strong, math testing below state target

Special education services in Lake Oswego School District are below some state standards, above some, worse in some areas and better in others.

The Oregon Department of Education recently released the special education report card for school districts. Information includes performance on state standardized tests, graduation rates, post-secondary school employment and dropout rates. The district’s report card compares it favorably to Portland Public Schools but shows it is not as strong as Riverdale School District.

Presenting the results of Lake Oswego School District’s report card to the school board Tuesday, Patrick Tomblin, director of special education and special services, described how the reports are created.

“Are there trend lines that make you proud?” board member Sarah Howell asked Tomblin, also inquiring about areas for improvement.

Tomblin said he is pleased with increases to graduation rates and the high post-secondary school employment rate.

“That’s our staff,” he said. “They do a fantastic job of getting kids through school and getting them in jobs.”

He said fewer students graduate than the state standard and some state testing scores could be higher, but such numbers may depend on the mix of students and what their individual experiences are.

Lake Grove Elementary parent Nicole Seymour contacted the Review this week, saying she is not satisfied with the special services the district offers her son, and that she was meeting with district and school employees including Tomblin this week. Seymour said her son is struggling in fifth grade, and his learning specialist is helpful, but her child is spending too much time in a mainstream classroom.

She said district staff told her they didn’t have the time to give him the one-on-one instruction he needs. She said there’s a lot of focus on the high test scores of students who aren’t on an individualized education plan but not enough focus on students with disabilities.

The report shows the results of English language arts and math state testing for students on IEPS in the third through eighth grades and in 11th grade in the 2012-13 school year. State law requires school districts to ensure an IEP be developed for every child with a disability, a part of schools’ special services. Students with disabilities in Oregon are defined as students who require special education for reasons including autism, communication disorders, being hearing or sight impaired, having emotional disturbances and having an intellectual disability.

In math, 60 percent of students on IEPs met or exceeded state standards, better than the state target of 30 percent. Some students received alternate math testing designed for students with an IEP, and 16 percent of them met or exceeded state standards, below the state target of 24 percent. In English language arts, 64 percent of students met or exceeded state standards, better than the state target of 36 percent. Of the students on IEPs who had alternate testing in English language arts, 70 percent met or exceeded state standards, above the state target of 64 percent.

According to the 2011-12 data on students with IEPs included in the report, 55.9 percent of them graduated with a regular diploma in four years, short of the state target, which is 67 percent. It was 58.9 percent in five years, with the state target being 72 percent. About 1 percent of students with IEPs dropped out, lower than the state target of 3.5 percent but not as good as in the previous three report cards, which was half of 1 percent. Graduation percentages rose from the last report card with a 55.2 percent four-year rate and a 48.3 percent five-year rate.

Tomblin said the report is intended to identify systemic problems and that these rates do not indicate that there are such problems. He said it just shows that fewer students on IEPs graduate with their class than the state target.

While the district is not hitting these targets, it’s exceeding state standards with 48.8 percent of the students who had IEPs when they left secondary school enrolled in higher education, 65.9 in higher education or “competitively employed” and 90.2 percent in higher education, a post-secondary education or training program, “competitively employed” or in “other employment.” The state targets, respectively, are 27 percent, 53 percent and 69 percent. “Competitively employed” means they are compensated at or above the minimum wage and not paid less than employees doing similar work. The district’s last report card showed a higher percentage of two out of three of those targets, which were, in the same order, 70.4 percent, 74.1 percent and 85.2 percent. Each state target was one percentage point lower in the 2011-12 report.

Almost 10 percent of students in the Lake Oswego School District had disabilities in the 2012-13 school year: 8 percent of students in kindergarten to third grade, 11 percent in fourth and fifth grades, 9 percent in sixth to eighth grades and 8 percent in grades nine to 12.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that each state education agency must develop a State Performance Plan to improve services and also report annually. The ODE issues report cards as one way to educate the public about progress toward its goals.

There are other state-issued, yearly report cards, including some for schools, districts and the state that offer details on data such as graduation rates, enrollment and state testing scores.

The report cards for Portland Public Schools and Riverdale School District showed far different numbers than Lake Oswego’s. Portland Public Schools’ four-year graduation rate for students with IEPs was 31 percent, and Riverdale’s was 88.9 percent in those districts’ latest report cards. Of the students who had IEPs when they left secondary school, 100 percent of former Riverdale School District students and 52.2 percent of former Portland Public Schools students were enrolled in higher education.

Riverdale High School Principal Paula Robinson said it’s not fair to compare Riverdale to other districts because it is smaller, so students receive more individual attention from teachers. There are 250 students at the high school. She said the school has not only college counselors but also teacher advisers who guide students, helping them move on to college or a career after graduating. Robinson’s background is in special education, and she said she knows other schools have many obstacles, and “we all do the best we can do, but kids have different kinds of opportunities here.”

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