Students in Jackson County's alternative high schools are failing to achieve at a rate that leaves their schools dead last among all schools in Jackson County, according to data released this week by the Oregon Department of Education.
Created as part of Oregon's No Child Left Behind waiver, the state's new growth model assessment measures schools based not only on overall achievement, but also on their ability to improve test scores and graduation rates from previous years.
The region's two alternative high schools, Central Medford High School and the Upper Rogue Center for Educational Opportunities — operated by the Eagle Point School District — scored at the bottom of the list of the county's public schools for 2011-12.
The Medford administrator in charge of the district's testing did not have an immediate answer for the low scores.
"I'm anxious to start delving into it further," said Debbie Connolly, Medford schools' assessment supervisor.
Connolly said that until she studies the data more deeply, it's difficult to tell how significantly Central's data may be affected by various populations of lower-performing students or particularly low-scoring grade levels.
"It's going to be interesting to see what happens with Central," said Connolly.
Under the new assessments, each school is labeled as level 1 through 5, with 1 being the lowest achievement or growth, and 5 being the most impressive.
The achievement score represents the overall test results of students at the school, while the growth scores demonstrate how a school's students have progressed compared with other equally performing students across the state.
For example, a student scoring at the 60 percentile in a particular subject would be compared with other students across the state who also scored at that percentile, with the data assessing their growth from that point.
Data released Monday represent test scores since the 2010-11 school year.
"It's a much more informative way. Every child is an individual now," said Connolly, who said that in the past, a particular grade level was compared to the same grade the next year, even though it was a new group of students.
"It's a truer measure," said Connolly. "I'm much more comfortable with this."
Central Medford High School, which provides an alternative education for those students who would otherwise attend North Medford or South Medford high school, earned level 1 for overall achievement, and level 2 for growth, putting them at the same level as many of the low-income schools identified by the state over the summer as in need of assistance.
The school has consistently had a lower graduation rate and test scores than other secondary schools in the region, but the new data reveals the students also aren't making significant growth.
Central Medford received 24 points of 100 available on its assessment.
While Medford and Eagle Point have some of their lower-scoring high school students in alternative schools, Ashland and Central Point keep their students in the general population, and still scored well. Ashland scored at the top, level 5, while Crater High School's three small schools each reached level 4. South Medford came in with a level 4 score, while North Medford and Eagle Point high schools were a notch down at level 3. Phoenix and Rogue River high schools scored at level 4.
Samantha Steele, Central Point's director of education, said the fact that all high school students attend Crater made the results even more satisfying for her district.
Steele said whether a district has an alternative school to house students who likely have poor attendance and lower test scores should be taken into account when reviewing data at the high school level.
"We don't have alternative schools, so you aren't comparing apples to apples," said Steele, who was excited to see a growth score of 90 for one of the district's three small high schools, Crater Renaissance Academy.
Steele said Crater Renaissance Academy was among the state's top 5 high schools with the highest growth rate.
"I love being able to look at the data like this," said Steele.
The Eagle Point School District's Upper Rogue Center for Educational Opportunities was not ranked in terms of academic growth, but received level 1 in achievement, with 20 overall points out of 100.
Apart from the county's alternative schools, campuses received a wide range of achievement and growth scores, with the Ashland School District standing out as the high performer in the region.
In addition to Ashland High School, Ashland Middle School ranked at level 5 overall. The Middle school also received a perfect 100 in terms of growth.