Though the school still has work to do in the areas of math and science compared to area schools, Molalla's overall scores in every subject are up from last year.

GRAPHIC BY KRISTEN WOHLERS - This chart displays the 2016-17 Smarter Balanced test results for area high schools in English, Math and Science. The displayed figures are the percentage of the total population of 11th grade students who tested as proficient in the given subjects. For example, out of all of Molalla's 11th graders who took the English test, 78.6 percent tested as proficient in that subject.

The Oregon Department of Education recently released statewide testing scores after students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced tests in the spring of 2017. As a state, scores fell slightly from last year; but for Molalla High School students, it's a different story.

The test results reveal the percent of students in each grade level and demographic (such as socioeconomic status and race) who are proficient in the areas of English language arts, math and science.

Last year, of the total population of Molalla's juniors who took the test, 74.2 percent were proficient in English, 30.3 percent were proficient in math and 42.6 percent were proficient in science.

All of those numbers are up this year. This year, 78.6 percent were proficient in English, 37.9 percent in math and 43.8 percent in Science.

Superintendent Tony Mann was particularly excited about Molalla's English scores, which were higher than many surrounding schools.

"When I look at that data and I see that students graduating from Molalla High School in 2017 have the reading, writing and thinking skills that place them among the top achieving districts in the Portland Metropolitan area," Mann said, "it brings tears to my eyes because frankly that's what I would want for my own children, and that's what I want for all our children."

However, Molalla High's math scores, even with the more than 7 percent improvement, are lower than surrounding school districts, and science scores are significantly lower when compared to other schools.

"Sometimes I can be accused of being the organization's biggest cheerleader, and I think that's one of the hats I get to wear," Mann said. "But I wouldn't want to unintentionally send a message…that we don't have a lot of work yet to do. We've got a lot of work yet to do, and we've got areas where we expect our students to have more opportunity and more academic growth."

Molalla High's advanced placement teachers, Kurt Van Deren and Erin Plaza, hope to help provide that opportunity for growth and improved academic achievement. At the Sept. 14 school board meeting, they voiced their hopes to expand the AP program. Van Deren referenced Franklin High School as a model school with a similar demographic as Molalla. Their AP program is one of the best in the state.

An expanded AP program would require not just more teachers, but ones with commitment to spending extra time to plan for AP lessons. Though the idea of expanding is still nascent, the conversation about pushing Molalla students forward is happening in full force; and the all-around improvement in test scores offers encouragement to keep that conversation going.

"I could not be more proud of our students, our teachers, and this community for working together to grow exceptional futures for our children," Mann said.

Molalla River School District's middle school and elementary school results to come.

Kristen Wohlers
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