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Up and down King School test scores face extra scrutiny

Score one for parent activists in Portland Public Schools.

After the recent uproar about unusually large gains and then drops in test scores at King School — and the subsequent PPS investigation that found no wrongdoing — district leaders now say they'll seek an independent investigation into the matter.

Sue Ann Higgens, PPS chief academic officer, sent a note to King School families and community members on Tuesday thanking them for attending the Sept. 25 listening session on the issue, at which one parent said she felt a "crisis of confidence" with the district, according to a news report.

Now, a week later, Higgens wrote in her memo: "Because of the change in test scores from year to year, the need to support staff at King and all schools with clear guidance on testing, and your input, we have decided to initiate an independent analysis to learn more about what contributed to the test score increase and then decrease between 2011 and 2013."

The review, Higgens wrote, will include analyzing PPS and the Oregon Department of Education's guidance on testing, testing practices at the school, the test score data and other factors such as staff and student changes from year to year.

Higgens wrote that she's in the process of identifying an experienced education research administration administrator who is not affiliated with PPS or ODE.

She says the analysis will be conducted as quickly as possible this fall, and parents and the community will be notified of the outcome at its conclusion.

The scandal erupted early last month when district leaders said they noticed the aberrations in test scores from the year before. Two PPS administrators conducted the review: Regional Administrator Antonio Lopez and Human Resources Director Michelle Riddell.

Their investigation found "no improprieties."

Student achievement at King is under a microscope since the school is in its third and final year of a $2 million federal turnaround grant that extended their school year and helped revitalize the school.