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Beaverton, Tigard-Tualatin schools say state education data shows need for improvement

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A second-grader at William Walker Elementary School works on a lesson during the first day of school. Data released by the state show slight upticks in graduation readiness, but indicate major achievement gaps between students of color, disabled students, and those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. More Washington County students are on track and on time to graduate, but fewer are meeting state grade-level expectations in math and English.

Data released last week by the Oregon Department of Education provides a glimpse into student achievement during the 2018-19 school year, with some telling results.

Although vastly different in size, Beaverton and Tigard-Tualatin school districts boast nearly the same graduation rate. In Beaverton, an estimated 86% of high schoolers graduate on time. In Tigard-Tualatin, that number is 87%. Both districts are above the state average of 79%.

Despite slight upticks in graduation readiness, the data shows schools across Washington County are failing students of color, students with disabilities, migrant students and those who are economically disadvantaged.

In Beaverton, only 25% of migrant third-grade students, 34% of third-grade African American students, and 36% of Hispanic or Latino third-graders met state expectations for English language arts, compared with 79% of Asian students and 70% of white students who did.

In Tigard-Tualatin, the mathematics achievement gap is even worse. According to the district profile, less than 5% of eighth-grade Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students met state targets in math. That same data set shows only 18% of African American eighth-grade students and 23% of Hispanic or Latino eighth-graders met state expectations for math, compared with 57% of white students and 63% of Asian students who did.

The achievement gaps are no secret.

"While the data gives reason for celebration, the data also reveals we have significant work still to do," Sue Reike-Smith, Tigard-Tualatin schools superintendent, said in an Oct. 18 blog post. "Of 16 schools, four posted high levels of academic growth. Our opportunity as a district is to support the remaining 12 to achieve the same in pursuit of higher percentages of student proficiency in math and language arts. While we continue to make progress towards a 100% on-time graduation rate, our opportunity is to close the on-time gap for underserved students of color, bilingual students and students navigating poverty."

The demographics are changing, too. White students make up less than half of the student population in Beaverton and 57% in Tigard-Tualatin.

"Outcomes for students are still predictive of socioeconomic status, English language proficiency, race, and disabilities," a 2019 Beaverton School District strategic plan noted.

To address the issue, district officials say they've strengthened programs and supports like high school success teams, graduation mentors, early warning systems and AVID elective classes to support low-income and historically underrepresented students in college readiness.

"There are a lot of supports at the high school level that are paying off for our students," Beaverton schools spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler noted. "We're looking long-term at the investments we've made ... focusing really on ninth-graders, making sure we give them a good start."

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