WLWV District leads state averages in test scores
The West Linn-Wilsonville School District focuses on more than just the Smarter Balanced assessment test given at the end of the school year to assess student success.
"We want to be sure we're (using) other measures because Smarter Balanced is only once a year," Barb Soisson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning said, adding that the school district uses different methods to analyze growth in their students, like other tests or assessments. "We look at (Smarter Balanced) results very seriously and thoughtfully, along with other evidence of student learning."
Smarter Balanced indicates whether students are on the right track for college or the workplace. Scoring a level 3 or 4 means the student is on track, whereas a 1 or 2 shows a need for help.
Since the Smarter Balanced system began three years ago, it has tested grades 3-8 and 11 in math, science and English language arts. The tests are categorized by state, district and individual school scores, as well as subgroups such as minorities and students with disabilities.
After the recent release of the 2016-2017 test results, the WL-WV School District exceeded state averages, in some categories by as much as 29 percent.Overall, about 68 percent of students received a level 3 or 4.
"We always score significantly higher than state or national averages, however, we don't look at that," Soisson said. "I think the main thing to communicate about WL-WV is that it's about growth, growth for each student, growth across multiple assessments."
The federal government sets a target of testing 95 percent of all students in each category to ensure the data is well-represented. However, not all schools and districts reached the target participation rate this year, which would provide the most accurate data. Another aspect that determines accuracy is looking at cohorts of students instead of the same grade level each year to determine the success of students in a certain subject.
For example, during the academic year 2014-2015, 68 percent of third-graders in the WL-WV School District exceeded in English language arts and 74 percent of the same group of students exceed in 2015-2016. With the latest scores released, they showed even more growth, with 76 percent of the same group of
students excelling as fifth-graders.
"That cohort indicator is something you need to look at alongside (the same grade level each year)," Soisson said. "If you say the scores drop, if you look at that without looking at the same group of children, it wouldn't be completely accurate."
When looking at three other comparably sized districts, WL-WV received the second highest scores when comparing the number of students who exceeded benchmarks in English language arts in third and eighth grades, in math for fifth and 11th grades, and in science for fifth and 11th grades. District third-graders scored about 24 percent higher than those in the Oregon City School District in English language arts.
Individual schools showed a more precise breakdown.
When examining math scores at individual primary schools, most of the time there was at least a 15 percent drop or rise in scores among third, fourth and fifth-graders.
"Some of the factors can be teachers working with newer curriculum. So in math, especially, one of the things WL-WV is paying attention to is how well do students transfer the problem solving they do with our math curriculum to an assessment." Soisson said. "We think that transferring of skills is something that might not be happening."
She said that is the main reason for many of the declines in test-scores.
"Our question is, 'What do we need to do, what kinds of practice do students need, to transfer that to the Smarter Balanced assessment?'" Soisson said. "We don't believe our students aren't gaining the math skills."
Wilsonville High School decreased from last year in every subject for each grade, while West Linn High School increased every subject for each grade. WLHS 11th-grade English language arts and math students had a steady increase in those who excelled over the last three years.
But Soisson says WHS decreasing doesn't mean teachers stopped doing the things that helped students exceed the previous year.
Soisson said schools also offer three interim assessments — standardized tests — throughout the year, as well as daily tests administered by teachers to evaluate student success and their data doesn't coincide with decreases in growth seen in on some Smarter Balanced test results.
"Other data doesn't indicate (students are) slipping or not doing well," Soisson said. "So we want them to
be able to (transfer their skills) to Smarter Balanced because that is your college and career readiness indicator."
Soisson said when students finish high school and move on to college or a job, they won't be showing the skills they learned in the classroom the same way. They will have to bring everything they learned together, and figure out how to apply it.
"It's important to know that when the results become public, is not when the school district starts working with that," Soisson said. "District principals have already been working to shape the work needed to ensure student growth, she said.