Clatsop County schools had mixed success last year in their efforts to meet or exceed state and national standards in math, language arts and other academic benchmarks.

Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Education released preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress scores for all five school districts in the county.

The Warrenton-Hammond School District is celebrating its progress this year, having improved math scores at the grade school level over two years to remove it from the list of troubled schools.

It was a sweet victory for the school, considering that this year, AYP standards were raised for the first time in three years.

This caused just 54 percent of Oregon schools, or 645 out of 1,200, to meet AYP standards, compared to 71 percent in 2009-10.

Mark Jeffery, Warrenton’s new superintendent this year, said the improvement reflected years of hard work from all involved.

“This is a real accomplishment and a reflection of what our district has been doing and will continue to provide the very best educational opportunities to our students,” Jeffery said.

There’s only one school remaining on the school improvement list – Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Astoria. While its scores passed the AYP benchmarks in math this year, it needs to improve enough for two consecutive years to make its way off the list.

Astoria schools Superintendent Craig Hoppes was happy to see the progress.

“This is a great tribute to the Lewis and Clark staff as they have been working tremendously hard on improving student learning,” said Hoppes.

How it works

In order to meet AYP, all subgroups in a school must meet targets in English/Language Arts and math. Schools are broken down into smaller groups based on family income, English proficiency, ethnic background and disabilities, and are also evaluated as one group.

In any school that receives federal Title I funds – money that supports schools with a higher population of low-income students – sanctions kick in when they fail to meet the benchmarks in a particular group two years in a row. Assistance and intervention becomes more comprehensive as a school’s years out of compliance rack up, and can go as far as restructuring the school after six years of failure meet the benchmark.

Astoria

In Astoria, two of the district’s four schools did not meet AYP.

At Astoria High School, students met benchmarks in English, but not in math, which caused the whole school to fall into the “not met” category. This is the third year in a row that

the school did not meet the math targets, but the school does not receive federal Title I funds. Astoria High School has shown improvement in the area of math, though the scores do not show it because they are based on a two year average, Hoppes said.

At Astoria Middle School, the school as a whole did not make AYP for the first time in three years. Students missed math targets in several subgroups and students with disabilities missed the mark in English.

In specific areas that showed a need for improvement a year ago the district has made necessary progress, Hoppes said.

“Overall math continues to be an area across the board of needing improvement,” he continued. The district started a new math curriculum this past school year and has high hopes for its impact on learning.

“Adequate Yearly Progress reports are just one indicator of how students are performing,” Hoppes said.  

 

Warrenton

In Warrenton, both schools met all AYP benchmarks in math and English this year.

Jeffery said he is thrilled to see such targeted success, and will direct his staff to keep doing what they’re doing.

“We will maintain our focus on specific subgroups of students who struggle to keep pace,” Jeffery said.

The accomplishment is a reflection of the effort by students, their parents and the entire staff, he continued.

“I wanted to make specific note of the efforts of our staff in assisting our students in special education to meet the standards this past year,” Jeffery said. The area was a specific area of focus for the district over the past few years.

With the increases that are a regular part of the assessment process along with the changes the Department of Education made this past year it was doubly challenging to make AYP, he added.

Seaside

In Seaside, three schools failed to meet AYP this year: Broadway Middle School, Gearhart Elementary School and Seaside Heights Elementary School. Superintendent Doug Dougherty said the schools have had a strong track record over the years, but felt the sting of the increased standards this year.

“Over the years AYP has been in place, Cannon Beach Elementary School has met it nine out of nine times, Gearhart Elementary School and Seaside Heights Elementary School have met it eight out of nine times, Broadway Middle School has met it seven out of nine times, and Seaside High School has met it six out of nine times including each of the past two years,” he said. 

“In fact, the students at Seaside High School this year have demonstrated considerable growth raising all subgroups in all subject areas,” Dougherty continued.

These targets will now increase by ten points each year until 100 percent of the students will be required to meet the targets during the 2013-14 school year, he said.

 Also this year, the State School Board significantly increased the scores required to pass these targets in the elementary and middle school grades.

“Oregon now has some of the most rigorous academic standards in the United States,” he said.

Despite the AYP?scores, it is important to realize that student performance is continuing to rise at all levels, Dougherty pointed out.

“Over the past 15 years, Seaside School District has been one of the top three achieving school districts in Oregon,” he said. This year, no district of similar size or larger met AYP and smaller school districts that make AYP often have subgroups that often do not meet the size requirements to provide valid measurements and are not considered in AYP, he continued.

“Traditionally, our subgroups of students with disabilities, Hispanic/limited English proficient, and students living in poverty have not achieved at the same rates as other populations,” Dougherty said. Because the local economy is based on tourism, the area has one of the most transient student populations in Oregon, he explained.

“Even so, we continue to work to meet each student’s needs,” he said.

Jewell

In Jewell, the district met AYP standards in math and English, and Superintendent Brian Gander said the goal is to take student achievement to the next level.

“We will not settle for meets, but are really trying to reach the exceeds category, that is an area of improvement for all our grades,” Gander said.

The district is continuing to improve its students’ writing outcomes, and the district leadership is pleased with the high school graduation rate and the effort juniors and seniors put into their state assessments.

“With all the exams juniors and seniors take to prepare for post-secondary school I am glad they put such strong effort into the state assessments,” gander said.

Knappa

In Knappa, Hilda Lahti Elementary met AYP benchmarks in math and English, but the high school is now listed as “pending” in the math category, which left the school in that category as well.

Superintendent Jeff Leo explained that AYP standards were met academically, but because of miscommunication with Oregon Department of Education, some students didn’t participate in the tests. This year was a transition year, where the students being tested shifted from sophomores to juniors.

“The district did not test a few students that we should have and that caused us to be not in compliance,” Leo said. “We just need to make sure we test those students next year.”

 Because the students met the academic standards, Knappa High School will not be on the AYP watch list for school improvement, he explained.

Overall, student achievement continues to be the school board’s number one priority in Knappa and is the focus of on-going professional development, Leo said. The district has hired 10 new teachers in the past two hiring seasons, including high school math, kindergarten, K-7 physical education and special education, science and language arts, he said.

“We look for teachers with the preparation to help all kids reach high standards,” Leo said.

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