Elementary test scores hold steady, but are down at LHS, middle school

By Sean C. Morgan

Lebanon Local

Lebanon’s elementary schools mostly held firm or made slight improvements in the number of students showing proficiency in the state’s assessment testing in the 2018-19 school year, while the number mostly declined at the middle school level and at the high school level.

Supt. Bo Yates presented a summary of the Smarter Balanced state assessment during the board’s regular meeting Thursday evening, Oct. 19,  at the Land Lab following a tour of the facility.

Elementary students stayed the same or made improvements in third- through fifth-grade language arts and in third- and fourth-grade math, while the number meeting the standard in math declined from 41 percent in 2017-18 to 36 percent in 2018-19. The largest gain at the elementary level was movement from 42 percent in 2017-18 to 45 percent in third-grade math in 2018-19.

At the middle school, the number of students showing proficiency declined by six points in grade six and eight language arts, and grade seven math. The number declined by 7 points in seventh-grade language arts and stayed even in grade six and eight math at 43 percent and 35 percent respectively.

At the high school level, the number of 11th-graders meeting the standard decreased from 61 percent in 2017-18 in language arts to 51 percent. The number declined from 29 percent in math in 2017-18 to 23 percent.

These charts list the percentage of Lebanon School District students who showed proficiency by earning a score of 3 or 4 on state SBAC tests in the spring at each grade level.

The graduation rate increased from 73 percent in 2017-18 to 80 percent in 2018-19, while the ninth-grade on-track statistic fell from 80 percent to 71 percent.

The administration is looking at trends because sometimes individual classes do exceptionally well or poorly, Yates said. “We want to take a pretty holistic approach to how we’re going to improve classrooms and student outcomes. Although you might see some data that goes up and down, what we’re trying to do is dig deeper into that and have the principles really work with the teachers to figure out how can we support better achievement in those classrooms. We’re taking a look at those areas where we’re getting achievement on a consistent basis, trying to use that as exemplars for the rest of our staff.”

Yates has set targets to improve the number of proficient students by 3 percent in all categories except high school, where he is looking for a gain of 10 percent, 61 percent, in language arts and 11 percent, 32 percent, in math.

Yates said he is concerned about students scoring at level 1 on the test, which is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, with 3 and 4 showing proficiency. He is looking for a decrease of 3 percent at level 1.

The district is using the STAR reading test to monitor the progress of students throughout the year, providing feedback on student performance every six to eight weeks, Yates said, instead of waiting eight months for feedback from the state test.

At the high school, “we have some significant issues with both of those scores (language arts and math),” Yates said. “Our high school graduation rate has improved dramatically, but probably the ease of getting a high school diploma has been equally lessened. That’s a concern. We need to take a look and make sure that kids that are graduating are graduating so they’re at grade level and they’re prepared to move on to the next level and be self-determinant, whatever they want to do.”

Ninth-grade on-track data is important because the graduation rate cannot improve more than what ninth-grade on track data are, Yates said. “We can’t have 71 percent as our graduation rate in three years. That’s not going to happen, so we’re looking at different ways that we can support students, how we can micromanage especially a freshman and sophomore.”

The goal is to make sure the students don’t fall behind, he said. It takes resources, counselors and a system that can document where students are.

“We have good people at the high school,” Yates said. “And I feel really good that we’ll move forward at being a lot more successful.”

Yates is aiming at an 85-percent freshmen on-track rate this year, he said.

“It’s going to be kind of a triage system this year,” Yates said. The best model is a cohort model, where students share the math, language arts and science teachers, who have a common study hall so the students are all passing their core classes.

“They’ve kind of been trying to use that system, but our staffing is not set up for that,” Yates said. “But we’ll evolve into that.”

It’s a good system because it will provide three teachers with 75 minutes, and they can micromanage the students, he said.

“I feel like we have a good foundation, and we’re asking the right questions.”

Another piece is finding a way to work with parents to ensure the students don’t fall far behind, Yates said, noting that “our kids are behind at every grade level. When do we not want to have kids at grade level? When was that decision made that it’s OK not to be there? We have changed that culture.”

The push and pull needs to be at every grade level, he said. The students don’t just fall behind at the ninth grade.

The district will need to improve summer school and after-school programs, Yates said. “Let’s make sure that parents understand the need for being able to read by the time kids are out of third grade.”

The district needs to engage parents at each grade level, Yates said.

Board member Tammy Schilling said she’s noticed that parent volunteer levels are highest at the lowest grades and tend to drop off as students get older.

“If you’re looking for triage, I’ve never known a better micromanager than a mom,” Schilling said. “I’d really like to see more parent involvement.”

That’s something that would help the district, Yates responded, adding that the district has a hard time finding people.

“We’re talking through what does this model look like and how can we sustain this model in Lebanon,” he said.

The board discussed attendance rates, which ranged from 62 percent at the high school to 88 percent at Cascades Elementary last year, most varying a couple of points up or down from the previous year’s level. Seven Oak had the largest decrease, from 80 percent to 73 percent for regular attenders, while Cascades had the best gain, from 85.3 percent to 88 percent.

Board member Nick Brooks said businesses are having the same problem, and they’re looking for people who can and will show up on time, ready to work.

“It’s a culture piece that a lot of people need to work on,” he said.

“We’re missing a conversation somewhere with a certain group of parents,” Schilling said.

Present at the meeting were Schilling, Brooks and Chairman Tom Oliver. Mike Martin and Richard Borden were absent.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a plan to bus students from the apartment complex on Reese Parkway, which has a speed limit of 40 mph, with significant commuting traffic and truck traffic. Under state law, students who live within a mile of their school must walk.

The board action identified it as a hazardous student walking zone, which allows the district to bus them.

• Purchased two lots, at 1543 and 1544 2nd St. for $100,000. The property will be used by the Lebanon High School construction class to build new homes. The class completed and sold its first home last school year.

• Approved the hiring of Ashley Earls as an elementary school teacher.

District misses on grant

Lebanon Community Schools was not awarded an Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program grant, which means the district will not seek a bond levy in the spring.

The grant program could have provided up to $4.5 million in matching grant funds upon local approval of a bond measure. The district applied for the grant last month.

Supt. Bo Yates said the district will watch what happens in the spring and discuss applying for the grant again afterward.

The next grant cycle will take place prior to the fall election.