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More Reynolds pupils are hitting the mark in reading and writing, but are still below state levels

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT - Paul Coakley, superintendent of Centennial School District, hangs out with some students on the first day of school.Students in East Multnomah County schools made virtually no progress in improving their performance on standardized tests last year, results just released by the Oregon Department of Education reveal.

East Multnomah County student test scores mirrored that of the state, where little to no improvement was made.

"Annual tests give us a snapshot of student learning, but there is more we should be doing to give teachers the tools to target complex thinking in students," Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said in a statement. "Shorter, more focused testing throughout the year can give teachers insights into activities that can help students think and work out problems. That is how we get better results."

Of course, these standardized tests are just one yardstick of student achievement and cannot measure other important attributes of education such as creativity, curiosity and determination.

Students in the Centennial School District slipped in math year-over-year with 32.8 percent working at grade level in the 2017-18 school year, down ever so slightly from the 33.6 percent meeting the mark a year earlier.

In English language arts, 44.2 percent of Centennial students were proficient, the same as the year earlier.

In tiny Corbett School District, 39.2 percent of students passed the math test, compared with 39.4 percent in the 2016-17 school year. More Corbett kids are reading and writing well, with 58.3 percent of them reaching the benchmark in English language arts, compared with 53.7 percent in the 2016-17 school year.

In the Gresham-Barlow School District, the numbers of students hitting the goal in math was off one percentage point to 32.3 percent from 33.3 percent. In English language arts, 51 percent hit the mark in reading in the 2017-18 school year, little changed from the year earlier 51.1 percent.

The Reynolds School District produced the lowest test scores in East Multnomah County with only one in five students doing math at grade level. In the 2017-18 school year 20.8 percent hit the testing benchmark in math, up slightly from the 20.5 percent in the prior year.

But Reynolds students showed improvement in language arts. About one-third are achieving at targeted levels with 35.2 percent of students reaching the reading benchmark last year, up from 32.8 percent in the prior year.

Statewide fewer than half of students are doing math at grade level and just over half are reading and writing at levels that prepare them to graduate from high school on time. In math, statewide only 40.5 percent of students passed the benchmark tests in the 2017-18 school year, compared with 40.8 in the year earlier.

Statewide, 54.9 percent of students were proficient readers and writers, up slightly from the 53.6 percent in the 2016-17 school year.

These tests are called Smarter Balanced, and this is the fourth year Oregon students are taking them. They were developed and are being used by 17 states, including Washington, based on the Common Core standards. The Common Core state standards are a rigorous set of guidelines initially adopted by 42 states.

The Smarter Balanced tests are not the old multiple-choice, "bubble in" standardized exams. Smarter Balanced tests require students to write out many answers in essay form and show and explain their work in math, although there are some multiple choice answers.

A growing number of families have opted out of the tests nationwide, including in Oregon.

Some object to what they perceive as increased federal control of education, although Common Core and Smarter Balanced tests were crafted by a consortium of states, not the federal government. Others feel there is an overemphasis on testing, and some think the tests are just too long.

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