Sherwood had two of the 10 schools in the entire state with the maximum number of points available

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - NEW ON BOARD - Gary Bennett, the new Sherwood School District chief academic officer, is thrilled along with the rest of the district staff about the high marks the Oregon Department of Education gave Sherwood schools after the first year using a new evaluation model that is based on student improvement or growth rather than meeting set standards of achievement.There have been some big grins around the Sherwood School District since administrators and staff learned that the district excelled under new performance data released Aug. 3 by the Oregon Department of Education.

“Sherwood schools were among the state’s top performers,” said Sherwood Chief Academic Officer Gary Bennett in an Aug. 8 press release.

The new model that was recently approved by the federal government for rating academic success evaluates schools’ performances based on the amount of improvement or growth students show in a given year. The former model primarily judged schools on the number of students who passed established tests and met a set standard of achievement.

“We’re really proud of our report from the state,” Bennett said Aug. 14. “Sherwood had two of the 10 schools in the entire state with the maximum number of points in all three categories on which schools are rated: achievement, growth and sub-group growth. I think that’s impressive.”

Archer Glen and Edy Ridge elementary schools were given the maximum number of points under the rating, showing strong performance in every category. According to ODE, 12 percent of the state’s elementary schools made the top tier or Level 5.

Middleton and Hopkins elementary schools along with Sherwood High School and Sherwood Charter School also were all rated by ODE as being Level 5.

“Only 6 percent of the high schools received that rating,” Bennett said. “That is pretty darn good.”

Both Sherwood and Laurel Ridge middle schools achieved Level 4 ratings, with only 6 percent of middle schools statewide attaining Level 5, Bennett noted.

In addition, Hopkins was named a Model School by the state for its work with disadvantaged students and traditionally underperforming subgroups, including students in special education and English language learners.

“This is the first rating to come out since the state received its waiver from No Child Left Behind,” Bennett said. “The new rating system focuses on growth, not the percent of students who reach benchmark. Before, a good student who made no improvement still contributed to his school earning a higher ranking because he passed the tests, while an underperforming student who improved a lot but still didn’t pass the tests contributed to a lower ranking.

“Many believe (the new model) provides a more accurate assessment of student and school performance. Rating the growth raises the bar. Our goal is to keep each student moving forward – this rating system incentives this. This is the right incentive.

“We’ve been looking at student growth and student data in Sherwood in one form or another for several years. Last year our School Board’s goal was focused on the growth of each individual student. Now, with the NCLB waiver, the state is able to focus on student growth as well. I believe it is the best way to evaluate student achievement.”

Bennett, who was first hired to be the SMS principal three years ago, lauded the district for staying abreast of current trends and making good decisions “long before I got here.”

He added, “The district does frequent monitoring of where students progress in reading and intervenes if they are not showing sufficient progress. If you can’t read in the information age, you will struggle in school and beyond.

“We’re really excited about the ODE results. We feel good about them. But it is the teachers and staff who are at the schools every day. They deserve a pat on the back. They are in the trenches. They do the heavy lifting.”

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