Scappoose, St. Helens test scores drop following pandemic
The Scappoose, Rainier and St. Helens school districts are following a trend observed throughout the state.
Proficiency test scores in English and mathematics were lower in 2021-22 then they were in 2018-19, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced school shutdowns.
According to education leaders, test scores from the 2021-22 school year show the impact of learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The testing data was released Thursday, Sept. 22, by the Oregon Department of Education.
In the St. Helens School District, for all grades, numbers for English language arts proficiency decreased from 48.9% in 2018-19 to 32% in 2021-22.
Statewide, about 43.6% of tested students showed proficiency for their grade in English.
For math, the score for all grades in St. Helens was cut nearly in half, from 34.4% in 2018-19 to 17.8% in 2021-22.
The statewide score was 30.4% who were proficient in math last spring.
The 2021-22 score for science was 27.6%, although science scores from 2018-19 were not available for comparison.
The Oregon Department of Education notes that the term "proficient" refers to the achievement level that students achieve and whether they are on track to be college and career ready once they graduate from high school.
The Scappoose School District also saw declines, but they aren't nearly as steep as in neighboring St. Helens.
For English language arts, there was only a slight dip in Scappoose from 2018-19 to 2021-22, going from 50.4% to 47%.
Scappoose's numbers in math dropped slightly, from 36.8% to 31.1%.
The Scappoose science proficiency score was 27.7%, nearly identical to that of St. Helens.
Some smaller school districts are in especially dire straits.
Numbers from the Rainier School District show sixth-graders went from a 21.7% proficiency rate in mathematics in 2019 to just 7.7% in 2022.
The district saw 41% of its sixth-graders proficient in English language arts in 2019, but only 21.2% in 2022.
The numbers show an especially big drop among high school juniors.
Nearly 73% were proficient in English in 2019, but only 35.1% of juniors in 2022 were considered ready for college-level courses.
In neither St. Helens nor Scappoose did school district officials seem surprised by the Oregon Department of Education data.
"My initial reaction is that these numbers reflect the realization that students learn best when they can be in physical classrooms with our teachers," Tim Porter, Scappoose School District superintendent, wrote to the Spotlight in response to questions about the report. "Our teachers and staff do an incredible job preparing our students for life after their formal K-12 education."
Porter continued, "There were also areas where our students improved upon their last state assessment scores, including third- and fourth-grade language arts and math. That is a fantastic accomplishment when one considers the educational experiences of our current (fourth- and fifth-graders) over the pandemic years."
Porter, when asked how the district can make improvements, said, "We adopted a new language arts curriculum this year and will adopt a new math curriculum next year. We continue to bolster our instructional model by adding a director of instruction and an instructional coach."
The St. Helens School District described the statewide standardized test score results as "disappointing, yet not surprising," in a statement provided to the Spotlight.
"The St. Helens School District is no different and continues to focus on improving the student experience, which includes success in academics," the district statement added.
The statement continued: "The challenges over the past three years are evident in the standardized test results. Prior to the pandemic, the St. Helens School District was on a very strong improvement trajectory. Over the past three years, the strides we made have been eroded. The good news is we know what needs to be done and our staff are working diligently to help all children meet their full potential."
In giving a reason for the declining numbers statewide, Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill said, in a news release, "The assessment results are a call to action for Oregon to keep advancing the programs we know meet our students' needs. As expected, the pandemic had an impact on learning in Oregon and across the country."
An unusually high percentage of students didn't participate in testing in the 2021-22 school year, according to the Department of Education, so results may be less reliable than for a typical year.
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