Oregon City Schools Superintendent Lonny Rivera vowed to improve next year’s state report card by focusing on ways to help fifth and sixth graders do better in math, science and reading.
The state last month released the results of the report card, which is a new evaluation system for school districts this year. Instead of an overall grade for districts, the new system gives grades in nine categories.
The report card shows that the Oregon City Schools district, which has a student enrollment of 3,853, received two B’s, three C’s, a D, and three F’s.
“It’s been a group effort to try and decipher everything in the state report card. We are not at all satisfied with where we have come out on this report card,” Rivera said at a school board meeting on Sept. 24.
Fifth and sixth grade students failed all tests under the Progress category of the report card.
“I don’t want to beat up fifth and sixth grade teachers at all. I’m coming from a district, where I worked previously, with the same concerns and weaknesses - in the fifth and sixth grades. And there’s a pattern in many different areas throughout the state. We just have to figure out what is that component we need to get better at. We’re having those honest conversations. It is never easy, especially when I know people are working as hard as they are. I can tell you the staff took this to heart and it’s something that can be very demoralizing when you work as hard as you do and then you see sometimes the results not where you want them to be. The one thing we are pushing is that we’re not going to shy away from what we have to do, but yet we’re also going to make sure we build up our individuals, and our teachers and administrators, so they know we have so many good things that are taking place at this point and we’re going to keep going in that direction. We’re going to get there.”
He said the reconfiguration of grades five, six, seven and eight, starting this school year, will help improve the report card for next year. The reconfiguration moved fifth and sixth grade students into the Eisenhower Intermediate School, and seventh and eighth grade students into Fassett Junior High. It allows teachers more time to collaborate and plan together, and is expected to improve student test scores.
“We’re collaborating, intervening, everyone is under one roof to focus our efforts,” said Rivera, who became the district’s new superintendent in August.
“Before I even began the job, we had staff members meeting to totally map their curriculum from the beginning of the year to the end. That says a lot about their commitment. They were working hard and know the importance of making sure that all of us are on the same page, trying to move forward, and get the content covered. As you know, we’re also going through the common core, and all this stuff is unraveling when we’re also trying to put in new standards for teacher evaluation, principal evaluation, and reconfiguration.”
The district received a B, or 97 out of 120 points, in the Performance Index category, which measures test results of every student, not just those who score proficient or higher. The higher the achievement level, the more points are awarded in the district’s index. This rewards schools and districts for improving performance.
“The general rule of thumb is if you’re over 100 points, that’s basically where you want to be. That’s how the old designation for Excellent used to be – over the 100 mark. We have some room to grow on that. The goal is we’re going to be higher than that 97 for sure for next year,” he said.
The district received a C, or 75 percent, under the Indicators Met category, which measures how many students have passed the state tests at a minimum level, called proficient or higher. Only fifth graders failed to meet a minimum level in reading, math and science. Sixth and seventh graders failed math.
Next year, a minimum of 80 percent of students in Ohio must pass in order to meet an indicator.
“It’s going to be a little more difficult for districts across the area to make sure they’re hitting that 80 degree mark. So this is just a taste,” said Rivera.
When looking at the Progress category, there were “some bright areas,” he said.
“For fourth and eighth grade students, we had big growth in both reading and math,” he said. In the seventh grade, there were “overall gains.”
Gifted students received a C grade in value added data, which measures growth. Rivera said the grade is somewhat deceptive, since gifted students are already at a high achievement level.
“A C means they’ve made at least one year’s growth. That tends to be harder for any district because they’re already so high. We’re very happy that we had that C. Many districts didn’t do that, but we did,” he said.
He also addressed the F grade in the Progress category given to students with disabilities in the district.
“When people see an F, they automatically will assume the worst about the entire district. There are a number of students within that who are also doing well. We have to get out there in front of the public and let them know – that the sky’s not falling. By no means are we ever going to hide behind anything to say we don’t’ have to improve. We do and we will,” said Rivera. He said more co-teaching will hopefully improve the grade.
School board member Carol Molnar added that there are no longer waivers issued to certain special education students from taking the tests.
“Now everyone takes it. Even if they just sit in a wheel chair and don’t respond to anything. They still have to take that test,” said Molnar.
“Also, the state, I think unfairly, only allows one percent of our students to be alternately assessed,” said Rivera. “We have over one percent. We do have a few students who really have a rough way to go. Taking a test is just not something in their repertoire. We hold high standards for all kids. But there comes a point where common sense needs to come in play.”