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North Marion glad to see OAKS test go away

The Oregon Department of Education released statewide test results for the 2012-13 school year recently and local districts seem to be falling below the state average in mathematics, reading, science and writing.

The 2013-14 school year will be the last that uses the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skill (OAKS) test before switching to testing that is more in line with the Common Core State Standards, an initiative adopted by 45 states through which a student’s academic progress and critical thinking can be better evaluated, according to local administrators.

“This doesn’t test the Common Core State Standards, so there’s a real disconnect there,” said North Marion School District Superintendent Boyd Keyser.

“Next year will be a whole new test so we’re not overly fixated on these numbers.”

Desiree Kiesel, the NMSD testing coordinator, said that because students are learning off of CCSS, the test results don’t necessarily reflect student learning.

“We’re not happy with the test scores,” she clarified. “But we want the community to know we’re working hard to have those scores reflect what students are actually learning.”

According to results released by ODE, the percent of students meeting standards both statewide and locally declined except in high school reading and math.

For example, 54.7 percent of North Marion High School juniors in 2011-12 met or exceeded requirements in math, but that percentage jumped to 64.4 percent in 2012-13. Reading scores for the same group are even more remarkable, jumping from 60 to 85.7 percent in one year.

“There is a lot more student ownership,” Kiesel said. “They’re learning that what they have to achieve goes beyond doing it just for a teacher or just for a grade. It’s learning that real-life application so they’re prepared for college and a career.”

That ownership at the high school level is bleeding into parent-teacher conferences, which are now led by the students themselves, she added.

While the high school level is seeing big improvements, other North Marion students dropped or remained stagnant in their scores, with eighth-graders taking a dive from 71.6 percent meeting and exceeding in math in 2011-12 to only 49.3 percent last year.

“That year was an anomaly; the 49.3 percent is more in line with what has historically been the percentage,” Keyser pointed out, adding that 45.3 percent of the same group of students met or exceeded the benchmark as seventh-graders.

“So they actually improved,” he added.

While administrators are positive about things happening in the classrooms, they admitted there are things that need to be worked on.

“We’re working on a math audit K-12 to see how we teach, what strategies are we using and how can we align across the curriculum,” Kiesel said, adding that technological strategies will also be explored.

“The single most important thing we can do is raise teacher performance,” added Julie Jackson, principal of North Marion Intermediate School. “We’re working on a new teacher performance system that’s a supportive role.”

The role of the teacher has gotten tougher as the district enrollment continues to go up and staffing has decreased over the past few years.

“The reality is that you can’t drop teachers and instructional assistants and expect the same results,” Keyser said. “We are faced with the highest expectations ever and the lowest support ever.”

State Report Cards, which will highlight moves toward CCSS, are set to be released Oct. 10.



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