Report cards kind to schools

By Dick Mason, The Observer October 14, 2013 10:27 am

Union, Wallowa county schools land in the top three tiers of state’s grading system 

Report cards never tell the whole story. Still, the overall story told by the Oregon Department of Education’s 2013 grade reports, released last week, about the public schools of Union and Wallowa counties is encouraging.

The report cards indicate that all of the schools in the nine Union and Wallowa county school districts rated are in the top three of the state’s five tiers. The grade reports also show that most of these schools are in the top two tiers.

Leading the way is Wallowa Elementary School, the lone school from Union and Wallowa counties at Level 5, the highest in the state’s revised grading system. Only the top 10 percent of the schools in the state made Level 5. 

“We are very excited and proud,” said Wallowa School District Superintendent Bret Uptmor.

He credits the high ranking to the excellent job Wallowa Elementary’s teachers are doing in helping students develop a solid grasp of the subjects on the state’s assessment tests — reading, math, writing and science. 

The La Grande School District boosts four schools that achieved Level 4 status — Central Elementary, Greenwood Elementary, Island City Elementary and La Grande Middle School. La Grande High School was rated at Level 3 and Willow Elementary, a kindergarten-only school, was not rated. Willow was not rated because kindergarten students do not take state assessment tests. 

The department of education has been putting out state report cards for schools since 2000. Ratings have been based upon state assessment scores and graduation rates, among other factors.

The reports this year are significantly redesigned to reflect changes in Oregon’s educational system. The reports also place more emphasis on student improvement when evaluating schools. 

La Grande Superintendent Larry Glaze is happy with the report showing how students are making significant academic strides from year to year.

“It focuses more on student growth. Student growth is part of the equation,” Glaze said. 

The revised new reports provide schools with more data on student performance.

The additional information ties in well with the school district’s Professional Learning Communities program, Glaze said. Through PLCs, teachers meet regularly to share data on students and develop strategies to help them learn based upon this information.

In the Enterprise School District, both its high school and grade school were rated at Level 4. Enterprise School District Superintendent Brad Royse credits his district’s strong showing to an excellent and dedicated staff and tremendous students and parents.

Joining the six schools from the Enterprise and La Grande districts at Level 4 are Elgin High School and Union High School plus the Cove, Joseph and Imbler charter school districts. The state rates charter districts overall and not by school. Charter systems are publicly funded school districts that have been freed of some state and federal regulations. Charter systems are also eligible for federal grants which are to be used by the district to develop a focus on one academic area. 

Forty-six percent of public schools in the state were at Level 4 and 30 percent were at Level 3. Rated at Level 3 in addition to La Grande High School were Wallowa High School, Union Elementary School, Stella Mayfield Elementary School in Elgin and the North Powder Charter School District.