Oregon's elementary students shine on state assessment tests while upper grades need to show more improvementWhile North Coast elementary students are doing well on statewide assessment tests, middle school and high school students are still lagging behind.

The Oregon Department of Education released the results of the 2004 tests in math and reading today. The annual tests are given to students in grades three, five, eight and 10.

"I think we're doing a lot," said Marilyn Lane, director of instructional services at the Astoria School District. "Are we doing enough? Obviously we would like to see more of the students meeting and achieving the standards."

Astoria High School bucked the state trend in reading, with 63 percent of its students meeting or exceeding the state standard this year. However, that was still much lower than the district's elementary schools - especially Capt. Robert Gray Elementary, which had 92 percent of its third graders pass.

In math, 47 percent of high schoolers met or exceeded the standard this year, compared to 55 percent in 2003.

Lane said the district is going to focus on improving math scores by doing an audit of the math program and sponsoring a math workshop for elementary teachers.

She said that these test scores are only a snapshot of how the district is doing on a particular day.

"It's not the only thing we look at in terms of assessing how we're doing," she said.

Across Oregon, 70 and 80 percent of elementary school students met or exceeded the state standards in math and reading. However, only 60 percent of eighth graders passed, and scores for 10th graders are in the 40s and 50s on average.

"We're not making progress at middle and high schools," said Gene Evans, Oregon Department of Education communications director.

The performance scores in the higher grades have been consistently low for a decade.

"I am very concerned about the trend," State School Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a press release. "We see the same flattening in our SAT results, too. I know everyone is working hard, but something is clearly wrong here, and we need to take action."

She said she is aware of the challenges schools face, from unstable budgets to large classes and shortened school years, but

she said it's important to overcome those obstacles.

In the Warrenton-Hammond district, 43 percent of 10th grade students met the reading standard and 30 percent met or exceed the standard in math - a decrease from the 60 percent of students who met the reading standard and 39 percent who met the math standard in 2003.

"That's characteristic of Oregon scores since the test began," Superintendent Craig Brewington said. "Whether the high school test is too hard, I don't know."

One of the bright spots for the district was its third and fifth grade reading scores. Eighty-eight percent of Warrenton Grade School third-graders passed, and 86 percent of fifth-graders passed.

Superintendents in other school districts could not be reached for comment, however scores indicate that those districts are also following the state trend of lower scores in the higher grades.

Fifty percent of Seaside high school students passed the reading portion, while 41 percent made the grade in math - a 6 percent decrease in math and a 4 percent decrease in reading from 2003. Gearhart Elementary School had 98 percent of its third-grade students meet the math standard, and 95 percent of third-graders meet the reading standard. Scores at Seaside Heights Elementary and Cannon Beach Elementary were similarly high for both the third and fifth grades.

In Jewell, 35 percent of 10th graders met the reading standard, and 47 percent met the standard in math. One hundred percent of Jewell's third-grade students passed the math portion - the only local school to walk away with a perfect score this year. Because Jewell School is so small, numbers can vary broadly from year to year.

Knappa high schoolers passed the reading portion at a rate of 46 percent. Only 28 percent passed the math portion. Scores were higher the previous year, with 58 percent of 10th graders passing the reading portion and 49 percent passing the math portion.

Knappa's elementary reading scores were generally lower than those of other districts, with third and fifth graders scoring 69 and 66 percent respectively. The high score for the district was a 90 percent in third-grade math at Hilda Lahti Elementary School.

The Oregon Department of Education is planning on releasing more specific information on school test scores next week, including which schools met the adequate yearly progress standard, as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

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