State tests show mixed results


State tests show mixed results

3:53 p.m. PDT September 8, 2016

Oregon students improved slightly in two state mandated tests last year, and declined slightly in a third.

The results of the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment for English and Math, and Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) for Science were released Thursday.

About 55 percent of Oregon students earned a three or four on the four-point scale and are considered on track to be college- and career-ready in English Language Arts, which is up from 54 percent a year earlier. About 42 percent earned a three or four in Math, up from 41 percent. In Science, 63 percent of students earned a three or four, down from 64 percent.

“What is most exciting about this year’s results is the progress made by students across the board, including those from groups that have historically performed at lower levels than their peers,” Oregon Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said in a statement.

“This progress reflects the dedication and hard work by our students and educators to meet higher standards as we aim to ensure all students in Oregon are successfully prepared for their next steps,” he said.

Students in the Salem-Keizer School District specifically improved scores in Math, remained flat in English and declined in Science.

According to a study conducted last fall, teachers are not happy with the Smarter Balance Assessment test.

In the November survey last year, more than 1,200 Oregon educators said the tests caused a significant loss of time for learning, had a negative impact on students with special learning needs, and presented substantial challenges for inadequately resourced schools, particularly with respect to technology.

This year marks the second year students in Oregon took the tests online. Last year was the first year the Smarter Balanced test consisted of open-ended questions, rather than multiple choice.

Salem-Keizer Assistant Superintendent Kelly Carlisle said many of the district’s lower performing elementary schools made “significant progress.”

Auburn Elementary, for example, improved by almost 4 percentage points in English and nearly 10 points in Math.

Carlisle said the district no longer has any elementary schools at level one in the state’s five-level rating system and only a couple at level two; most are a level three or four.

He said professional learning communities — in which teachers build and share curriculum together — seem to be one of the best practices helping increase school performance.

Carlisle said the students are being asked to have a deeper understanding of the subject matter than before and now is a time for growth and adjustment.

“(The district is) really focusing (our) efforts on growth over time,” he said.

Noor said all Oregon students should have access to a relevant, rigorous, well-rounded education.

“We’ve raised expectations for our students so they are better prepared for post-secondary options, career, and civic life,” he said. “The (state) test results reflect just one measure of students’ achievement that — when combined with teacher feedback and other measures — works to provide a more complete picture of student progress.”

Results by grade, student group, school, and district can be found online.

Contact Natalie Pate at, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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