Baker Prairie's scores are almost identical to last year's, while Ninety-One's are down.

Along with students in grades 3-8 and 11 statewide, Canby's middle school students took the Smarter Balanced assessment in the spring of 2017. The results show little change for Baker Prairie students and a slight setback for Ninety-One students.

GRAPHIC BY KRISTEN WOHLERS - This graph reveals the percent of Baker Prairie and Ninety-One seventh and eighth grade students who tested as proficient in English, math and science, per statewide testing results. For example, 51.3 percent of Baker Prairie's seventh grade students tested as proficient in English language arts.

The Smarter Balanced results, recently released by the Oregon Department of Education, reveal the percent of students in each grade level who are proficient in the subjects of English language arts, math and science.

In short, in 2016-17, Baker Prairie students performed almost identically to the previous year. For instance, last year the results showed that of Baker Prairie's eighth grade students who took the English language arts test, 48.4 percent were proficient. This year, it's 48.2 percent. The most significant difference is only 1.4 percent, with the seventh grade math score coming down from 45.1 percent to 43.7 percent.

At Ninety-One, on the other hand, four out of the five scores declined. The only score that improved was the eighth grade math score coming up from 35.1 percent proficient in 2015-16 to 40 percent this year.

GRAPHIC BY KRISTEN WOHLERS - This graph shows a comparison between the statewide assessment scores of Ninety-One middle school students from 2015-16 to 2016-17. For example, the seventh grade English score came down from 71.9 percent proficient in 2015-16 to 62.8 percent proficient in 2016-17.

Ninety-One Principal Skyler Rodolph noticed the decrease and has considered a number of possible contributing factors. The first is that the school had a higher opt-out rate in 2016-17, which can amount to a change in test scores.

"If you have 50 kids, one kid passing is equivalent to 2 percentage points," Rodolph said. "So if you only have 50 kids test and you're 6 percentage points below where you were last year, that's three kids who didn't pass this year, but passed last year; or it's three to five kids who opted out, who passed last year, who then didn't take the test this year."

But the other factor that the school is examining is the testing method. In 2016-17, the school changed their assessment technique from a long three-week process to a grueling one-week testing period.

"The question we have is…our new testing style, was it detrimental?" Rodolph said. "Did it have a significant impact?"

"I look at cohort scores and say, is this group of kids growing?"

-Skyler Rodolph

But rather than compare this year's students in a particular grade to last year's students in that grade, Rodolph prefers to look at the scores based on cohorts, or a group of students as they advance to the next grade.

"I look at cohort scores and say, is this group of kids growing?" Rodolph said.

While overall scores are down for Ninety-One's middle school students, cohort scores have actually been improving each year. For example, in English language arts, the seventh grade students who tested as 62.8 percent proficient in 2016-17 came up from 44.9 percent proficient in 2014-15 when they were in fifth grade; and the eighth grade students who tested at 65.2 percent proficient in 2016-17 climbed from 45.1 in 2014-15 when they were in sixth grade, a more than 20 percent growth margin. Still Rodolph sees room for improvement, namely when it comes to math.

"I'm not okay with only 35-40 percent of kids passing math to begin with," he said.

It's possible that eighth grade students could receive some educational support as a result of the significant funding that Canby High School is receiving from Measure 98, The High School Graduation and College and Career Readiness Act. Of those funds, 15 percent can be used to prepare eighth graders for high school.

More on the implementation of Measure 98 funding to come.

Kristen Wohlers
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