Sandy Grade tops district for academic growth
Just as students are updated on their academic progress with report cards, so are schools. For several years, Sandy Grade School in particular was not a huge fan of receiving that evaluation.
After the 2013-14 school year, the school was graded — for lack of a better word — at a level two out of five.
Schools are graded on academic growth, academic achievement and also growth for subgroups, such as students with a disability or from a minority background. The data used to come from the students' OAKS test scores. Now with Smarter Balanced testing in place, Sandy Grade is seeing a positive difference.
Friday, Nov. 3, the school staff hosted an assembly at which Principal Rachael George announced that the report cards for the 2016-17 school year were in, and Sandy Grade had surpassed every other Oregon Trail School District school with its scores.
The school received a level 4 in overall academic achievement and student group growth and a level 5 in academic growth.
"I don't think ever have they out-performed all the other schools," George noted. "It's a huge celebration point for kids. Our school is competing with ourselves and with other schools, but not 'mean' competitive."
Sandy Grade also just happens to have the highest percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, and "that says something," George explained.
"Our community and family support is not the same as other schools," she added. "(But I think) families have really embraced this focus."
Students who ran the most laps or raised the most money during the school's jog-a-thon fundraiser were rewarded at the assembly with the opportunity to "pie" a teacher. Recently retired teachers Ann Thomson, Laurie Espenel and Lesley Vermas returned to campus for that day, taking turns to smear whipped cream in George's face and hair.
"(Teachers) see the value in being able to hook the kids and keep them motivated," George said of improvements that were the product of years of hard work from staff and students.
The 2013-14 report card was released soon after George began her career as principal at the school.
"It was a big shock for the community and to the families," she said. "We spent the first year talking a lot about 'what's our mission?' We knew if we could really dial in on the academics, attitude and attendance, we should really help dial in the students across the school."
In an effort to narrow their focus and really engage students, the staff implemented reading and math intervention opportunities, and other changes to systems and structures for students.
"It took a lot of trust on the (staff's) part," George added. "They had expressed that they wanted to help the kids to the best of their ability."
After the first year of Smarter Balanced testing, the school's scores remained even with their previous year's evaluation, which though it may sound negative, was not.
"We were really excited we'd stayed even because we knew it was a harder and more rigorous test," George said. "(And), we're really pretty excited about the outcomes (now) and the opportunities this creates for kids."
The school report cards for all Oregon Trail School District schools can be viewed online at www.ode.state.or.us/data/