Schools get top marks

By Dick Mason, The Observer October 19, 2012 01:55 pm

Enterprise High School and Enterprise Elementary School are in select company.

Each school has received an overall rating of “outstanding’’ for 2011-12 from the Oregon Department of Education via its school report card program. The two are the only schools in Union and Wallowa counties to receive “outstanding’’ overall ratings in a recent report released by the Oregon Department of Education. 

School ratings are issued based upon state assessment test scores, dropout rates, teacher experience, school improvement and more. “Outstanding’’ is the highest rating a school can receive.

This is the fourth straight year Enterprise Elementary has earned an outstanding rating and the third time in four years that Enterprise High School has received an outstanding rating. All were earned under the watch of Enterprise School District Superintendent Brad Royse.

 “This is great news. We are very excited and proud,’’ Royse said.

The superintendent credits the ratings to an outstanding staff and students and support from parents. Royse also said the school district’s site council played an important role by setting high achievement standards.  

The superintendent also noted that over the past two years the school district has placed added emphasis on attendance, a factor that helped strengthen school report ratings. 

State assessment test scores are a big part of the report card rating. Royse said that the teachers in his district focus on the state standards but are careful not to teach to the tests. 

In explaining how overall education is focused upon, Royse noted that the state earlier dropped its writing assessment test. The Enterprise District, however, decided to continue to keep a strong focus on writing despite the change by the state.

 All schools rated by the state in the La Grande, Union, Elgin and Wallowa districts received marks of satisfactory. The Cove, Imbler, North Powder and Joseph school districts, which are charter districts, received overall ratings of satisfactory. The individual schools in the Cove, Imbler, North Powder and Joseph districts were not given ratings. 

The schools that had the top marks in the La Grande School District were Central Elementary, Island City Elementary and La Grande Middle School. All three were on the “high side’’of satisfactory and very close to being named outstanding, said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze. 

Not content

Glaze said he is not content with ratings of satisfactory and hopes that schools in his district can achieve ratings of outstanding. He noted that it is becoming harder for schools to earn high report card ratings because state assessment test score standards have been raised. 

Glaze noted that the Oregon Department of Education will be changing how schools are evaluated for its report card program next year. He hopes that more focus is placed on academic improvement made by individual students.

“That would be a more meaningful evaluation than the current system provides,’’ the superintendent said. 

Presently schools are evaluated on assessment test scores for students in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10. Schools receive credit when assessment test scores in these grades improve but Glaze said this can be misleading since the students in these grades are different each year. If math scores increase for 10th graders in a district it does not indicate that 10th graders from the year before improved because a different group of students was tested.

This means the progress of individual students is not being compared. Instead  different students in different classes are compared, Glaze said.

The Oregon Department of Education has been issuing report cards for schools since 2000.