Oregon's 1,200 public schools were issued report cards last week to offer insights into which schools achieved the most progress in math, reading, and writing last school year and which schools did not. There are 10 large metro schools that show exceptional growth for students and higher proficiency rates than schools with similar demographics.
Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian writes that the report cards are a more meaningful measure of school performance than simply test scores because they compare each school with other schools with the most similar student populations. Even more importantly, the report cards show how much each school has helped its students' academic achievement, as compared to where the students were a year or years ago.
In Oregon's struggling, low-income communities, academic growth was minimal, and juniors at low- and moderate-poverty schools showed weak reading and math performance gains since middle school. The report cards inform how students scored on Smarter Balanced tests, which were given in Oregon and in 16 other states for the first time last spring.
Because the tests were so different from previous instruments, the Oregon legislature has ordered the Oregon Department of Education to give teachers and schools a one-year brerak from being rated based on the first year's test scores.
For those who were eager to learn how their local schools performed, there will be disappointment, since this year's reports do not include ratings, says Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal. The US Department of Education granted Oregon a one-year waiver on publishing ratings due to the transition to the new standards. The baseline for the state as a result of the assessment does appear on the reports, but there are no overall ratings or school comparison ratings. This information will appear on next year's report cards.
Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said:
"Student learning is about so much more than a single test score, and these report cards help to paint a more complete picture about the work our schools are doing to support student success. I hope these reports will spark conversations across the state about our schools' successes, opportunities for growth, and the ways in which we can all support improved educational outcomes for our kids."
The reports also include 2013-2014 graduation rates and performance on standardized tests for 2014-2015, notes Anthony Rimel, reporting for the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
Under the Common Core, students are asked to write more often and to articulate and defend their reasoning more than they have in the past. Skills such as multiplication, fractions, and linear formulas are expected to be mastered at younger ages. Students are also guided to use more advanced vocabulary and to read and comprehend more nonfiction.
The change began at the meeting of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009. There the ideas that states needed to adopt the same standards, that students needed to be immersed in what was required for college, and that states should adopt the same expectations as in top-performing nations was first examined.
Their concept was based on multiple studies which showed that states had enormously varied standards in reading and math, and that most states, including Oregon, had set the bar too low to evaluate whether a student was ready for college, writes Hammond.