As a whole, the district still lags behind state averages, numbers from ODE indicate

Slightly fewer than half of students across the Estacada School District met testing benchmarks in English and only 30.2 percent did so in math, according to scores recently released by the Oregon Department of Education.

With 53.6 percent of students across Oregon testing at grade level in English and 40.8 percent meeting benchmarks in math, the Estacada School District lagged behind the state average in the number of students proficient in these subjects

Implemented in Oregon schools several years ago, the Smarter Balanced Tests focus on knowledge for college and career readiness outlined in the Common Core State Standards. Students' skills in English and math are tested and scored from Level 1 through Level 4. If a student scores at Level 3 or higher in a particular subject, they are considered as performing at grade level or higher. Scores in science were also released, though this subject is part of the OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) exams rather than the Smarter Balanced tests.

The districtwide score for Estacada factors how students from Estacada High School, Estacada Middle School, River Mill Elementary School, Clackamas River Elementary School, Summit Learning Charter and Summit Community College High School performed on the tests.

At Summit Learning Charter, which draws attendees from across the Portland metro area, approximately 60 percent of students participated in the tests. Of these students, 59.1 percent met benchmarks in English, compared to 58.2 percent last year; 31 percent of students met benchmarks in in math, compared to 27.8 percent last year; and 60.6 percent of students met benchmarks in science, compared to 61.2 percent last year.

Sean Gallagher, principal of Summit Learning Charter, noted that "test scores paint just one piece of the whole child."

"We think of (the) scores as one point of data we use to improve learning outcomes for our kids," he said, also noting that 131 students chose not to take the tests this year. "It's difficult to measure overall school performance when the number of opt outs is that dramatic."

Approximately half of students at Summit Community College High School, which is run through a partnership between the Estacada School District and Chemeketa Community College in Salem, participated in the tests. In English, 25.5 percent of students met testing benchmarks, compared to 50 percent last year; in math, 14 percent of students met benchmarks, compared to 17 percent last year; and in science, 38.3 percent of students met benchmarks, compared to 41.4 percent of students last year.

At Estacada High School, scores exceeded the state averages in all three subjects. In English, 82.1 percent of students met testing benchmarks this year, compared to 77.4 percent last year, and in science, 73.5 percent of students met benchmarks, compared to 64.5 percent last year. In math, the number of students performing at or above grade level more than doubled, with 46 percent of students meeting benchmarks, compared to 20.1 percent last year.

Scott Sullivan, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district, described Estacada High School's results in math as "a big highlight" of this year's testing results.

"Our high school math scores were a big comeback from the previous year," he said.

Though math scores are on the rise at Estacada High School, Sullivan identified middle school math as a place where improvement is needed. Only 25 percent of students performed at or above grade level, compared to 18 percent last year.

"We're really struggling in middle school math," Sullivan said. "We're significantly behind the state average."

In English, 39.3 percent of students at Estacada Middle School met testing benchmarks, compared to 30.1 last year, while 38.5 percent of students met science standards, compared to 46.6 percent last year.

At the elementary level, students begin taking the tests in third grade. This year, 28 percent of River Mill elementary students and 37.1 percent of Clackamas River elementary students were performing math at or above grade level, compared to respectively 27.3 percent and 31.2 percent last year. In English, 43.8 percent of Clackamas River Elementary students tested at or above grade level, compared to 44 percent last year, and 34.8 percent of students at River Mill tested at or above grade level, compared to 37.5 percent last year. In science, 76.1 percent of Clackamas River students met testing benchmarks, compared to 61.3 percent last year, and 60 percent of River Mill students met testing benchmarks, compared to 54.4 percent last year.

Sullivan noted that helping teachers further refine their craft is a key part of the school district's plan to continue improving student learning.

"We're doubling up on our professional development efforts," he said. "We want to have more opportunities for teachers to discuss what's working and (ways to) duplicate that."

Additionally, last school year, the district implemented an instructional coaching program to assist educators with lesson plan development and analyzing teaching practices. The program is still in place this year, with one instructional coach for the middle and high schools and another coach for both elementary schools.

Sullivan added that at Estacada High School, the implementation of proficiency learning in 2011 has improved student growth and test scores. Proficiency learning focuses on students demonstrating mastery of the skills they are expected to learn prior to progressing on to the next lesson.

"Time is the variable, but learning is the constant," Sullivan said, noting that the school has implemented systems to give students more time to understand concepts they are struggling with. These resources include tutoring or multiple classes in one subject.

When proficiency learning was first implemented at Estacada High School, the number of students who tested at or above grade level on the yearly standardized tests rose by 19 percent in math, 16 percent in English and 10 percent in science. Every year since then, the school has bested the state average in English.

As might be expected, the implementation of the new Smarter Balanced tests in 2015 has impacted the high school's scores as well. Many questions on the new tests require students to write answers in essay form and show their work for math, though there are some multiple-choice questions. During the first year of the Smarter Balanced testing, the number of students at Estacada High School who met testing benchmarks in math fell

from 69.5 percent to 31.6 percent.

Sullivan hopes to see a continued increase in student learning and test scores in the years to come.

"We've grown from one year to another in a number of areas, but we're still not happy," he said. "We want to provide the best educational experience for all students."

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