Students struggle to meet tougher state benchmarks
Test scores released by the Oregon Department of Education on Wednesday revealed mixed results in math, reading, science and writing.
The percentage of elementary and middle students statewide who met or exceeded math standards increased in 2011-12, but declined among high school students.
In reading, the percentage of all students who met or exceeded standards declined, mainly due to tougher reading standards that the State Board of Education adopted in 2001.
However, reading skills improved among third- and fourth- graders. The percentage of high school students meeting or exceeding reading skills also slightly increased.
The percentage of fifth- and eighth-grade students who met or exceeded science standards decreased five percent and six percent among high school students from 2010-11.
And the percentage of high school juniors — the only students who were tested in writing who met or exceeded standards — also decreased in 2011-12.
The main reason for the declining percentages was new, tougher standards, especially in reading and science.
Benton County test scores remained higher in most areas than the state averages, but they still declined from the previous year.
Corvallis Schools Superintendent Erin Prince said that despite the percentage declines, schools made significant gains in terms of student growth and closing the achievement gap between students.
“We are moving toward a model that emphasizes student growth,” Prince said. “So it’s good to have benchmarks and goals for us to target. We have areas that we need to focus on and improve, but we are making good progress.”
Jefferson Elementary School was the only Corvallis School District elementary school to see an increase in the percentage of students who met or exceeded math standards at every grade level (third, fourth, fifth) from 2010-11. Lincoln Elementary School saw one of the biggest increases: 79 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded standards, up from 58.7 percent.
Linus Pauling Middle School saw increases at every grade level, while more Cheldelin 8th-graders and Franklin School 7th- and 8th-graders met or exceeded standards.
“We are excited about our math scores, especially at the middle school-level,” Prince said. “Some of our subgroups made big gains. So while they may have not met the standards, they are learning a lot and moving in the right direction.”
At the high school level, Corvallis and Crescent Valley saw their percentage of students who met or exceeded math standards decline by about five percent from 2010-11.
Philomath High School was the only Benton County High School to see an increase in students who met or exceeded math standards, increasing to 75.8 percent from 72.9 percent.
At the elementary school level, 70 percent of Philomath third-graders met or exceeded, up from 57 percent, while about 65 percent of fourth graders met or exceeded up from 42.5 percent.
Philomath schools superintendent Dan Forbess said that district officials expected more elementary school students to perform better in 2010-11.
“The elementary school was marked as a school in need of improvement,” Forbess said. “So we received additional funding to help us get back on track. It shows that having more funding helps us meet students’ needs.”
Forbess said that he thinks mathematics will continue to be a challenge for students based on test scores the past decades. He said while scores are strong at the third-grade level, the scores are much lower at the high school level.
The Monroe School District saw an increase in the percentage of third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth-graders meeting or exceeding math standards
Alsea fourth, sixth and seventh graders also made made big gains in math. For example, 61.5 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded the standards, up from 36 percent last year.
Reading scores declined at many schools, but not at the levels of the other assessment areas. In fact, most Corvallis schools saw slight increases or held steady. Monroe High School saw the biggest percentage increase in students meeting or exceeding reading standards increasing to 91 percent from 84 percent the previous year.
The 2011-12 school year marked the first time 11 graders were required to pass the writing test to be on track for graduation.
Both Corvallis high schools saw declines in the percentage of students who met or exceeded the standards. CHS was at 68.5 percent, down from 80. percent; CV was at 78 percent, down from 85.6 percent.
About 82 percent of Monroe High School juniors met or exceeded the writing standards, up from 70 percent in 2010-11.
Slightly more than 74 percent of Philomath High School juniors met or exceeded the standards, up from 72 percent.
Alsea High School’s data was not released because so few students took the test.
Forbess said that seniors who didn’t pass the writing test or other tests last year, will use other tests or work samples this to demonstrate their knowledge.
“We have local assessments we perform to monitor what students are learning and they keep portfolios of their work,” Forbess said. “We absolutely want to provide students with the opportunities they need to meet the standards.”
To see a complete list of test scores in math, reading, science and writing by district and school, see www.ode.state.or.us.
Raju Woodward can be contacted at email@example.com or 541-758-9526.