State says Tigard-Tualatin must do more with third graders in math

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew at Metzger Elementary School earlier this month. Crew directed the Tigard-Tualatin School District to rewrite one of its goals for this year after the district predicted flat growth in achievements in mathematics from 2010.Oregon’s chief education officer isn’t impressed with the goals Tigard-Tualatin schools have for this year.

Rudy Crew told the district last week that it, along with 68 other school districts across the state, would need to rewrite its academic goals because they aimed too low.

Crew’s criticism for Tigard-Tualatin was mild compared to other districts. In an email to interim Superintendent Roger Rada, Crew said the district needed to raise its goal for third-grade math scores by at least one percentage point.

“Tigard-Tualatin is great in reading, and doing fine in their graduation rate, but in mathematics they predicted no change,” said Margie Lowe, a budget and data analyst with the department of education.

The goals are based on data collected from the 2010-11 school year, but the district set a goal of a one percent increase in math scores over those in 2011-12. Crew said the district needed to set its goals based on its 2010-11 figures, not last year’s, and needed to revise them.

“We were not clear what year we were supposed to set the goals from,” said Susan Stark Haydon, school district spokeswoman. “We approved a one percentage point increase from this past year and were supposed to set it from the year before.”

Rada told the School Board on Monday that the district was expected to establish goals before the state ruled what those goals should have been.

“The thing that really gripes me about this is that the state says, ‘Here’s what you’re going to do,’ but no one knows what the expectations are, or the rules," he said. "Then a new person comes in and says, ‘Here are the rules and expectations,’ after they did the work. So to be chastised after the fact (seems unfair),” Rada said.

Even before raising the standards, Tigard-Tualatin has a much higher percent of third-grade students meeting and exceeding state math standards than the state average.

In the 2011-12 school year, 73 percent of the district’s third-graders met or exceeded the state’s standards in math. The state average was 63.9 percent.

In 2010-11, 74 percent of third-graders met or exceeded in Tigard-Tualatin.

Lowe said that, despite Tigard-Tualatin’s high scores, it needs to continue to do better if the district — and the state — hope to meet Gov. John Kitzhaber’s goal of 100 percent of Oregon students graduating by 2025.

“Until we have 100 percent of students meeting these key benchmarks, we are asking that all districts still be looking for improvements,” she said.

The district set a conservative goal of a one percentage point increase in order to see if the test scores over the past two years — the highest proficiency in the district’s history — were a fluke or part of an ongoing trend, Stark Haydon said.

“Setting that goal at 74 percent after we achieved 73 percent the year before seemed like it would keep us moving over that trend,” she said. “We don’t know if a bump (in test scores) is an anomaly or part of a trend. We for sure want to have higher scores and thought of setting a higher (percentage) point than the year before. We didn’t realize that it was measured off of the score from two years ago.”

Lowe said that districts should move away from setting cautious, safe goals and reach higher.

“People in many districts set cautious goals this year because they didn’t want to set goals that they didn’t think they could reach. We’re asking that the conversation be changed, so they set out aspirational goals that really cause all of us to stretch,” she said.

The district’s curriculum director Dan Goldman told the School Board that raising its third-grade math proficiency was doable.

“Setting that target higher is challenging, but I think we can do that,” he said. “I do think it’s reasonable.”

Crew’s office said he was focusing on these specific areas this year, but that other goals would be included next year that, if too low, districts would need to address.

“We are hoping that it changes the conversation with our communities,” Lowe said. “If we settle for less, we’ll often get less, and we need to aim higher in order to make this happen. Right now it’s about aspiration and inspiration across the (education) system.”

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