Molalla middle and elementary schools, as a rule, scored well in Oregons new grading system for 2013

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Teacher Kelly Blackman with her Mulino Elementary School first graders taking a math assessment test in SeptemberUnder the state’s new grading system, Molalla middle and elementary schools all earned Level Four, or above average, overall scores in the 2013 Oregon school performance ratings, with Level Five being the highest tier and Level One the lowest.

The rating system is broken down into separate categories that include tiers for overall rating, achievement, growth and comparison to similar schools.

With the new grading system that was introduced last week, Oregon schools are rated primarily on how much they improve individual students’ reading and math scores from year to year (“growth”) and, for high schools, their graduation rate. How many students pass state reading and math tests (“achievement”) also factors in.

In each area, the schools are rated as one of five tiers, with Level 5 being the top 10 percent, or best, and Level 1 being the bottom 5 percent, or worst.

Clarkes Elementary School was ranked in the top 10 percent of the state (Level 5) in growth and subgroup growth, the only school in the district to earn a Level 5 rating in any category.

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Molalla eighth-grade students scored high in math and science, but their reading scores came in lower than state standardsOf all schools in the district, the Molalla River Middle School ranked the highest in comparison to other schools of similar demographics statewide.

“Molalla River Middle School is a Level Four school overall, ranked ‘above average’ in comparison to other middle schools in the state, and parents should be proud, as I am, of our children in our middle school,” said Molalla Superintendent Tony Mann Friday. “At the end of the day, we are proud of the work teachers and students are doing in all our schools.

Schools get extra scrutiny for the performance of a “subgroup” of their students, those who are low-income, special education, Latino, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander or learning English as a second language.

Mann said the performance ratings in all categories show “one point in time,” which is does not tell the whole story on student performance.

“I think the report cards show one point in time for the work our teachers and students are doing, but we look at improvement over time,” he said. “One point in time is important, but it’s not whole picture.

While, for the most part, Molalla’s middle and elementary schools scored well in the performance ratings, Molalla High School earned a Level Three (average) overall score, even though the school earned a Level Four, or above average, score in achievement and graduation rates. That is because the school’s subgroup category ratings pulled down the overall score.

Mann said trends over time in the district show continuous improvement at Molalla High School as more and more students in the school are performing academically to meet the high state standards for graduation.

“Growth — that is the variable that pulls down the overall scores for the high school,” Mann said. “Growth in certain groups of students did not meet goals set for those students, and we need to pay attention to all students.”

Part of meeting the growth target in the high school is paying attention to sub groups covered in the Oregon report card, he said.

“Achievement may be in the top 10 percent of the state, but if growth lags behind, then the overall rating drops,” he said. “Because we are in this for the long haul for all kids, we are looking at trends over time. Work this year around writing in particular is strong, especially at high school level. MHS is also one of best around — the one-year drop in growth is something we are concerned about but I’m still 100 percent positive we are moving in the right direction. “

The other thing Oregon report card does is show how each school compares to similar schools in the state — schools with the same demographics.

In that comparison, Molalla high, middle and elementary schools all rated about average, except for Rural Dell Elementary, Molalla River Academy and Renaissance Academy, which rated below average.

“That information is valuable for our community and parents,” Mann said. “We want our students to be able to compete not against only comparative schools, but statewide, because we want our students to be able to compete in the world of work and world of college admissions with students in any other community .

“The data that shows some schools are behind in overall ratings shows all of us where those areas of strength and concern are,” he said. “So I think using that data to strategically improve outcomes is what excellent schools do.”

Mann said the goal is to bring up test scores in reading and math, especially in the elementary school grades, since those skills will carry on for the students through high school.

“The investments we are making in early literacy in K-8, for example, will pay huge dividends for students as they move into middle school and high school in the future,” he said.

“We are exiting our first year with a common board-adopted curriculum in math and reading and entering a year of strong board investment in early literacy, with reading specialists – for the very first time – serving students that might be below grade level in all our elementary schools,” he said. “That’s important – that investment. I absolutely believe with that investment, and the passion of our teachers in teaching those skills, that we will see improvements in all levels, particularly in elementary school reading.”

The report card ratings for the district’s two charter schools, Molalla River Academy and Renaissance Public Academy, did not fare as well as other schools in the district

Mann said the charter school student achievement is also part of the larger district school achievement score, so the school district report card is based not just on data from the regular schools, but charter schools.

“I met with all school principals and will continue to meet with them concerning the work they are doing to improve student learning,” Mann said. “And the report cards are part of that conversation. I’ve shared the report card for the charter schools with the charter school directors, so that they can have that same opportunity with their boards.”

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