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High student test scores apparently skewed ranking results

A Lake Oswego School District investigation indicated Lakeridge High School may have been unranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools publication because, ironically, students tested so well.

U.S. News assesses more than 21,000 public high schools across the country and releases a print and online list. To be ranked at all, a school must meet certain criteria, and top schools get a silver or gold medal. U.S. News also ranks colleges and universities.

Robert Morse, U.S. News director of data research, said the problem was that the Oregon Department of Education suppressed the state testing data used to inform rankings, and O.D.E. did not report the data in a format that was compatible with U.S. News’ ranking analysis.

Kevin Hamler-Dupras, ODE accountability reporting manager, said state officials have been giving the same data to U.S News in the same way for years.

U.S. News ranks schools using factors including state assessment results for reading and math and a college readiness index weighing participation and performance in advanced placement and international baccalaureate exams. The testing data for the 2013 rankings came from the 2010-11 school year.

That year, more than 95 percent of Lakeridge students met or exceeded state testing standards for reading and math, according to the district. Almost 95 percent of Lake Oswego High School students met or exceeded standards in reading and 90 percent did so in math.

The Oregon Department of Education does not report the exact percentage of students with scores of 95 percent or more, a policy adopted to keep in line with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Hamler-Dupras said. Reporting the exact number in this case could reveal the scores of almost every student, a violation of privacy.

“Communications with U.S. News & World Report have emphasized that in what can be described as a hideous irony, it appears that Lakeridge High School may be unranked because students performed at a higher level than in previous years,” said Nancy Duin, school district communications director.

She added that this is the first time this has been an issue.

The ODE employee who sent the data to David Blumenthal, a researcher with American Institutes for Research, last fall mentioned the “standard suppression rules.”

“Your suppression rules did not present a problem last year,” said an Oct. 15 email to ODE from Blumenthal. The research institute contributed to the completion of the 2013 Best High Schools rankings.

“If we run into problems, I will let you know,” Blumenthal’s message said.

Morse said in a Tuesday email to the Review that the state assessment data could not be used because “the data were suppressed in the original state assessment data file.”

“Lakeridge High School (OR) was included in the 2012 Best High Schools rankings and ranked as silver,” Morse said in the Tuesday email. “U.S. News was able to use Lakeridge High School (OR)’s 2009-2010 state assessment data since it (is) not suppressed by the state.”

An April 24 email from Morse to Hamler-Dupras said U.S. News “will not be updating or re-calculating the 2013 rankings, it will be addressed in the 2014 rankings.”

Lakeridge remains unranked in the 2013 online list.

Lakeridge has been designated as a silver medal school for the past three years. Had the data been processed properly, Lakeridge probably would have been at least a silver medal school again, Duin said. Not being ranked at all is a considerable loss of standing for Lakeridge, especially with its rival, Lake Oswego High School, being a gold medal school ranked second in the state.

Lakeridge’s unranked status “is terribly deceptive and damaging” to the school’s reputation, said Bill Korach, school district superintendent..

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