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As scores are released, Portland continues to debate Smarter Balanced tests

PPS scores higher than state averages, but everyone struggling in math

As the Oregon Department of Education lifted the embargo on its statewide standardized test data Thursday at midnight, people across the education debate spectrum readied their storyline.

For the ODE, the story is that the Smarter Balanced scores were higher than the agency had previously estimated. That was based on a 2013-14 pilot program that between 30-40 percent of students would achieve a score of three or higher on the four-point metric. (Image is Clickable Link) OREGON DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION  - The logo for the Oregon Department of Education

“Students far exceeded those initial projections ... that really points to the hard work and dedication of our students and our teachers as they work harder to meet those new standards,” says Crystal Greene, spokeswoman for the education agency.

Portland Public Schools crowed that its scores were higher in every grade and category than the state average. (See scores below.)

That is, except in 11th grade, where PPS saw some of the lowest participation rates in the state for its 11th graders at 66.8 percent for English and 60.8 percent for math. Over all the grades, the district saw an 87.2 percent participation rate in English and 86 percent for math. This is much lower than the 94.5 percent participation rate across all categories required by the federal government.

ODE spokeswoman Crystal Greene says they don’t know yet if the U.S. Department of Education will make good on its threats to jeopardize up to $344 million in education funds, but that statewide Oregon achieved a 95 percent participation rate.

Groups opposed to the Smarter Balanced assessments took to the blogosphere to warn against the “better-than-expected” news storylines.

“Score setting is a subjective decision, implemented by adjusting the scale and/or cut scores,” writes Bernie Horne, Senior Advisor for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Leadership Institute. “If proficiency percentages are ‘higher than expected,’ it simply means the (17-state Smarter Balanced Consortium) deliberately set the scores for proficiency to make results look better than the (National Assessment of Educational Progress’). And that is all it means.”

Because this is the first year that the Smarter Balanced assessment is testing the new Common Core standards in math and English language arts, there is no scientific way to compare the data to previous years.

The ODE’s Greene says this year’s results set a new baseline.

“We know that people like to have those long-term trends,” she says, “but it is not simple or easy to articulate in a soundbyte.”

Overall results from Smarter Balanced assessments

Percentage of students who are on the path to being college- or career-ready, defined as achieving a level 3 or 4 on the Smarter Balanced exams.

Science results are still from the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) test.

Participation rates are a percentage range depending on the test.


English Language Arts: 53.3

Math: 36.4

Science: 73.9

Participation rate: 95.5 to 97.1

Portland Public Schools

English Language Arts: 60.5

Math: 49.8

Science: 63.7

Participation rate: 81.7 to 87.2

David Douglas School District

English Language Arts: 50.5

Math: 37.0

Science: 52.1

Participation rate: 95.0 to 98.1

Parkrose School District

English Language Arts: 43.2

Math: 26.5

Science: 45.5

Participation rate: 96.3 to 98.2

Reynolds School District

English Language Arts: 34.4

Math: 23.6

Science: 46.8

Participation rate: 91.9 to 97.1

Riverdale School District

English Language Arts: 85.2

Math: 84.3

Science: 91.8

Participation rate: 95.9 to 98.0

Source: Oregon Department of Education

Shasta Kearns Moore
email: shasta@portlandtribune.com
Facebook: ShastaKearnsMoore