Oregon students have ground to gain.
A multitude of test results in Oregon and across the country — from the nation’s report card and ACT scores to state school ratings — show students have been falling behind during the pandemic.
Local education leaders, including Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion, are aware of the trends.
“We came out of a two-year pandemic, so some of this isn’t surprising,” Champion said. “We are doing the necessary work to fill these gaps. Our students deserve it.”
The Oregon Department of Education offers assessments in English Arts, Mathematics and Science. Substitute examinations are offered in the same subjects for students with disabilities.
Earlier this school year, ODE released the latest test results, and the agency’s director, Colt Gill, called the results “a call to action.”
test result losses
Whether they are state or district-issued assessments, test results show sharp declines in a variety of subjects from the pre-pandemic 2018-19 school year compared to the 2021-22 school year, the first since COVID-19 included was -personal learning.
When it comes to state-issued English language skills tests, Central Point students suffered the highest losses, with a 15-point drop in proficiency ranging from 46% to 31%.
“We are committed to improving state assessment scores,” said Central Point School District Superintendent Walt Davenport.
Medford students who tested proficient in ELA saw a similar drop in the order of 13 points from 56% to 43%.
“We have a long road ahead of us. We’re unhappy with our results,” Champion said.
On the statewide math tests, the percentage of Phoenix Talent students who tested proficient fell 13 points from 29% to 16%.
“Overall, I don’t think the results are where we want them to be,” Superintendent Brent Barry said.
In the statewide science assessments, the percentage of Ashland School District students who pass the exam also fell by 13 points, from 58% to 45%.
“But I think the results speak for themselves,” said Ashland Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove. “There is still a lot to learn.”
Regarding localized assessments, Medford made its I-Ready data public and discussed it at a school board meeting earlier this month. Optional for Kindergarten, I-Ready was required of all students in Grades 1-8 this fall.
These results show some notable results. For example, Medford students scored above the national average in some areas in reading, but not in math. On aspects such as “Numbers and Operations” and “Measurements and Data,” the Medford students scored more than five percentage points lower than the rest of the country.
The I-Ready results prompted Medford School Board member Jim Horner to comment, “There is a particular issue that we have in this district that we need to work on.”
To which Champion replied, “And once you start at the bottom, it’s a lot harder to catch up.”
Defending Test Results
“We’re just getting back on the horse and resuming those solid routines that we all know kids benefit from,” Davenport said. “If they’re comfortable… they’re going to be more successful on some of these assessments.”
According to Bogdanove, the nationwide assessment process was “a tough re-entry” for students as they attempted to return to a normal routine after two years of online learning.
Phoenix-Talent School District superintendent Brent Barry said he was not surprised by the latest state test results given the move to distance learning for much of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. In addition, many of Barry’s students studied the aftermath of the devastating Almeda fire.
“As we come out of a pandemic and the Almeda fire, I know the things we have in place will make a difference in those outcomes,” Barry said.
The Phoenix talent superintendent noted that his students showed growth in math tests before the pandemic with the advent of a new curriculum. But it lasted as the pandemic began and the Almeda fire followed. During the 2022/23 school year, the new mathematics curriculum resumed and he hopes that results in this subject will improve again.
solutions to improve
The superintendents shared mixed answers about what could be done to reverse the results.
“I know there are many concerns, but I know there are many solutions,” Barry said.
For Phoenix talent, these solutions include not only a new math curriculum, but also less technical ones, such as B. Understanding where students are “academic and socially, emotionally.”
But Barry also believes his students need to be given multiple opportunities to take exams to improve their scores because “our kids have a lot of things on their minds,” including food insecurity, especially in families affected by fire.
Also, the common saying “teaching to the test” could play a role in highlighting Phoenix talent’s test results.
“How often do you take an electronic computer test in your normal school year system? Our new syllabus tries to emulate that: actually take a test that requires you to use your on-screen calculator and use your mouse and cursor,” Barry said.
Regarding his district’s commitment to improving test scores, Central Point’s Davenport promises a multi-pronged approach that will include tailoring instruction to individual student needs and adding counselors and wellness specialists.
Ashland’s Bogdanove recognizes the “unfinished learning” that many of his students face – learning that has been hampered by conditions such as mental or behavioral health problems.
“It’s not just about the academics,” said Bogdanove. “If we can still focus on the whole child, we will see this unfinished learning even out in a relatively short amount of time.”
In Medford, test solutions are partially refined around an overall theme. This year is the “Year of Literacy”. Next year it will be the “Year of Mathematics”.
“We know that having a third of our students read at grade level is unacceptable,” Champion said.
One of the district’s goals is for every third grader to be able to read at grade level in five years.
But for Medford, it’s about more than just topics to improve learning outcomes. According to Champion, a team is working to improve the English language arts curriculum, an action prompted by an internal audit.
“They said we had to create a consistent curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade in all of our core areas,” Champion said. “That’s a huge list.”
Next year, the teacher-led design team will focus on the mathematics curriculum.
“We have some significant gaps to fill,” the Medford superintendent said. “So it’s really about a localized approach…to get those standards for all of our students. It is important.”
Some of the superintendents went out of their way to share their views on state and national testing.
“District 6 testing is not viewed as a panacea,” Davenport said. “I think it’s really important for people to understand that we’ve always looked at the whole child and Smarter Balance and NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) don’t give the full picture of student achievement, knowledge and skills.”
While Barry said he’s aware that test scores greatly influence public perceptions of his school district and others, he believes they’re not everything.
Test results are really a snapshot of a specific experience the kids are having at the time, Barry said.
“We know there’s a lot more to what we do than test results.”
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.