Test results spark conversation about what's working, what's not for students.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District created a new set of goals for the 2017-18 school year, and student achievement was at the center.

On Sept. 18, the WL-WV School Board met with administration during a work session to discuss a plan to ensure they meet these goals in order to grow student achievement, improve professional growth and practices and encourage community involvement. The plan for 2017-18 consists of goals, student outcomes and strategies for how to reach those outcomes. The board looked over the progress made in last year's work plan to see what strategies, actions taken and measurable outcomes it needed to change or improve upon.

"This really is a living document in our district," said Kathy Ludwig, superintendent of the WL-WV School District. "It's not just something we put together for the board; it's based on the work we did last year, continuing on to this year."

In light of the recent release of Smarter Balanced test results — a state assessment for science, English language arts and math given to grades 3-8 and 11 to track college and workplace readiness — this was fresh on everyone's minds.

Board member Betty Reynolds pointed out that in most cases the district did not meet its goals for how many students meet or exceed state benchmarks — receiving a score of 3 or 4 on the test.

"I applaud the district for having ambitious goals, but I'm hoping we use (the scores) to inform what the goals are this time," Reynolds said.

Ludwig said for the 2017-18 draft plan they need to look at whether the goals they are setting are achievable.

"While you aim for (a high percentage), are you seeing incremental changes? We did go ahead and for both reading and math we said we would like to increase the number of kids meeting and exceeding in grades 3-8 by 10 percent," Ludwig said of the new plan, noting a 5 percent expected increase from grade 11 might be more achievable because students are getting closer to their college or career readiness goal.

Ludwig was also quick to note that the practices implemented to help improve test scores for 2016-17 take time.

"It takes a while to see benefit of the work," she said.

Ludwig and Barb Soisson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said they need to look more at students in every grade level to see how they are progressing each year.

"Let's move away from (mainly looking at) third, fifth and eighth and now let's look at every grade," Soisson said. "(We want to) continue to build what's happening at every grade level, to systematize that and show both in this work plan."

Board member Ginger Fitch said she encourages the administration to see where communication with parents might help certain strategies in improving student outcomes.

The board and administration talked about the usefulness of parent evenings and college nights and the structure of the evenings.

"We are talking about that now and auditing some of the evenings we are offering," Soisson said.

But administration says it doesn't just want high test scores — it wants to measure students' contribution to the classroom while using other assessments to determine whether students are ready for college and the workplace.

Fitch suggested students check a box at the end of the test to see whether they felt the test accurately reflected what they knew.

"I'm curious to see their perception of that process," she said. "I wonder what students would say."

The next step is for principals in the district to look over the draft plan so the district can incorporate their input by the next work session meeting on Oct. 16.

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