La Grande students top state standards

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer September 16, 2013 10:34 am

School superindentent: Professional Learning Communities program plays role in strong scores

La Grande School District students as a whole are exceeding the state average for reading, science and math, and Imbler High School students have plenty of the “write stuff.” 

These are some of the conclusions one can glean from the recent release of 2012-13 state assessment test results for reading, reading, science and writing by the Oregon Department of Education.

The ODE report lists what percentage of students at schools reached state benchmarks for reading, writing, math and science in 2012-13 and compare that to the percentages to 2011-12.

La Grande School District officials have combed the numbers provided by the state. This has allowed them to determine that as a whole students in the school district are topping the state average in math, reading, writing and science. The scores indicate that 64 percent of La Grande students met their state benchmarks for math, topping the state average by two percentage points; 75 percent met the state standard for reading, beating the state average of 70 percent; and 67 percent met the state standard for science, two percentage points over the state average.

La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze said that strong scores are a credit in part to its Professional Learning Communities program. Through PLCs, teachers meet regularly to determine, with extensive use of data, the best strategies for helping individual students meet state standards.

“PLCs are critical to this accomplishment (meeting state benchmarks) because their focus is on achievement on standardized tests,’’ Glaze said. “The goal is to help student by student, skill by skill.’’

The superintendent said that when teachers focus on helping students master the material for state standards “the test scores will take care of themselves.’’

Glaze said that overall he is satisfied with how students in his district are performing because they are displaying growth.

Imbler

The Oregon Department of Education report indicates that students at Imbler High School are particularly strong in writing. The numbers show that 84.6 percent of students tested at IHS met the state benchmark for writing. This was the fourth highest percentage in the state for high schools, said Imbler Superintendent Doug Hislop. 

The Imbler superintendent said the high writing score reflects the efforts of teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“This is an outstanding tribute to all of our teachers,’’ Hislop said.

The Imbler Superintendent said that in some cases the percentage of students meeting benchmarks in one grade fell from the previous year. 

The superintendent stressed, though, that in almost all cases Imbler classes displayed noteworthy academic growth from the year before.

North Powder

Highlights for the North Powder School District included the performance of high school students in math and reading. The ODE report indicates that 85.7 percent of students tested at the high school level met the state benchmark for math and 95 percent met it for reading. 

Statewide, 69 percent of high school students met or topped the state benchmark for math and 85 percent met or exceeded it for reading.

North Powder School District Title I program teacher and coordinator SuAnn Dixon credits marks like this to a focus by the district on areas students have been struggling in. If some students are not meeting state benchmarks in a subject area, they are required to take an essential skills class that focuses on the area they are weak in. The essential skills class is in addition to the classload the students already have.

The percentage of students in the North Powder School District meeting state benchmarks overall was lower at the elementary and middle school level. North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon said that the focus of teachers in the lower grades is on student improvement.

“Instead of focusing on benchmarks we focus on continued growth,’’ Dixon said.

 Dixon said that when students make significant progress each year up to high school they tend to do well on the essential skills tests they need to pass to graduate.

North Powder Principal Gerald Hopkins credits the strong performance of his district’s students to a number of factors. They include Superintendent Lance Dixon’s efforts to set aside funding for professional development for teachers, allowing them to attend  conferences and workshops, the willingness of teachers to communicate with the parents of struggling students, rewarding students for things such as perfect attendance and much more.

Cove

In the Cove School District, students did particularly well in the elementary grades. At the fourth grade level, for example, 87.5 percent of its students met the state benchmark for reading, compared to the statewide average of 64 percent. In science, 81 percent of the students met the state benchmark, topping the state average of 57.9 percent. 

Elgin

A highlight for the Elgin School District included reading scores at the seventh grade level. Eighty-percent of  Elgin seventh-graders met or exceeded the state standard in reading, seven percentage points above the state average.

Union

In the Union School District, eighth-graders were particularly strong in science. ODE numbers show that 74.2 percent of Union eighth-graders met or exceeded the state benchmark for science, exceeding the state average of 66 percent.

Wallowa County

Highlights for Wallowa County schools included the performance of high school students on the state assessment test. Eighty-seven percent of the Joseph High School students taking the test met or exceeded the state benchmark for science, far exceeding the state average of 63 percent.   

Reading proved to be a strength of students in the Enterprise School District. The ODE report indicates that 84.4 percent of Enterprise sixth-graders met or exceeded the state standard in reading, high above
the state average of 63 percent.

At the high school level, 94.1 percent of students met or topped the reading benchmark, 9.1 percentage points above the state average. 

The Wallowa School District’s top performers included its fourth-grade class. Ninety percent of its fourth-graders met or exceeded the state benchmark in reading, easily topping the state average of 73 percent.