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Estacada Middle School sees highest score gains in English and math on Smarter Balanced test results

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA SCHOOL DISTRICT - A young Estacada student works on a math problem in class. The school district has taken extra measures this year to ensure that students grow academically in this subject.

Estacada School District leaders cite growth at Estacada Middle School as a highlight of the recently released Smarter Balanced test results.

At the middle school, 43.2% of all students tested at grade level in English, up from 39.8% of students last year. In math, 26.8% of students met testing benchmarks, compared to 22.8% the year before.

"The middle school is moving forward," said Scott Sullivan, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Estacada School District. "There's a long way to go, but we saw some growth."

The Oregon Department of Education released scores for the 2018-19 Smarter Balanced tests in late September. Across the state, 53.4% of students tested at or above grade level in English, and 39.4 scored at or above grade level in math.

Oregon students began taking the Smarter Balanced tests five years ago. Based on the Common Core state standards, the exams are scored from Level 1 through Level 4. If a student scores a 3 or 4 they are considered to be testing at grade level or better and are on track to graduate from high school and be ready for college or a career. If a student scores a Level 1 or 2 on the online test they are testing below grade level.

In the Estacada School District, 51% of students met testing benchmarks in English, and 31% met benchmarks in math; 82% of students participated in the English test and 81% of students participated in the math test. The previous year, 50% of students met testing benchmarks in English and 29% of students met testing benchmarks in math.

The districtwide scores for Estacada factor in how students from Estacada High School, Estacada Middle School, River Mill Elementary School, Clackamas River Elementary School, Summit Learning Charter and Summit Community College High School performed on the tests.

The assessments are taken by students in grades three through eight, plus high school.

At Summit Learning Charter, which is based in Eagle Creek and draws enrollment from across the state, an increased number of students scored Level 3 or 4 on each test. In English, 66.7% of students tested at grade level, up from 62% last year, and in math, 37.5 % of students tested at grade level, compared to 34.6% the year before. This year, 58% of students at the charter school participated in the English test, and 56.6% participated in the math test.

"It's difficult to measure overall school performance with Smarter Balanced when so many students opt out . .These results measure every student's experience with the test on a particular date and time. It's not the sole way we identify student success and satisfaction," said Summit Learning Charter Principal Gallagher, noting that those who opt out of the tests complete a work sample. "We are not at all satisfied with any of our results. We want to continue focusing on improving learning for every student at Summit Learning Charter."

Several additional staff members have been hired at the school this year to provide students with additional opportunities for tutoring.

"We put a lot of emphasis on instructional resources," Gallagher said, adding that students can receive support online or in-person.

At Summit Community College High School, which is based in Salem and offers GED, high school completion and dual college and high school credit programs, 43.5% of students scored at Level 3 or 4 in English, an increase from 37.9 % the year before. In math, fewer than 5% of students met testing benchmarks, though fewer than 6% of students participated.

At Estacada High School, 73.2% of students performed at grade level in English, compared to 84.1% the year before. In math, 29.5% of students performed at grade level, down from 32.1% the prior year. This year, 100% of the students participated in the English test, and 97.9% of students participated in the math test.

River Mill Elementary School saw student learning gains in both subjects. In English, 46.8% of students scored at Level 3 or 4, up from 42.4% last year; in math, 41.5% of students met testing benchmarks, compared to 37.6% the prior year. For both exams, 97.7% of the students participated.

At Clackamas River Elementary School 44.7% of students tested at grade level in English, and 31.5% did so in math. Last year, these numbers were 51.2% and 35.8%, respectively. On both exams, 98.2% of the students participated.

Continued academic growth

Estacada School District leaders plan to utilize a variety of strategies to support student learning, including ones outlined in a new strategic plan that was approved by the board of directors in July.

"There's a process of continuous improvement, and looking at data every 30, 60 and 90 days, so we can see if interventions are working or not," Sullivan said.

This year, there is a participar emphasis on facilitating student learning in math. Each school building has specific goals within this focus.

"It's exciting to see every department recognize that they play a role in student learning," Estacada School District Communications Director Maggie Kelly said. "Nutrition services has integrated math questions at lunch time."

Kelly also noted that the district strives to frame the Smarter Balanced testing in a positive manner. Teachers put up posters of encouragement, and letters discussing the value of participating in the tests are sent home to parents.

In a press release, the Department of Education wrote, "It is important to keep this assessment information in context. This is a snapshot in time of student performance, narrowly focused on two important subjects taught in our schools.

"These assessments do not measure or reflect the breadth of student learning and well-being in our schools," ODE continued. "They do not measure the ability of students to think critically or analytically, use technology effectively, understand civic responsibility, or demonstrate the personal management or teamwork skills we know are vital for lifelong success. These assessments also do not provide a measure of the social and emotional well-being of our students."

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