School districts produced mixed results on tests looking at whether Oregon's nearly 60,000 students who speak English as a second language are making strides — a performance deemed "simply unacceptable" by the state's second-highest ranking education official.
"The results are clear; we need to change direction," said Rob Saxton, the new deputy superintendent of public instruction.
Gov. John Kitzhaber recently hired Saxton and Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew to transform the state's education system so that every student in the Class of 2025 graduates from high school. The graduation rate for students whose first language is not English is 52 percent, so the state needs massive improvement from this group to achieve its goal.
Saxton's remarks accompanied the state Department of Education's release of its Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives report. The statistics-heavy document describes the progress districts are making with English language learners.
Districts must hit three targets to receive a "met" on the report. Only 19 of the state's 197 districts accomplished the feat while 102 failed. The remaining 76 districts either have no English language learners or too few to be rated.
Districts that fail to meet objectives for two consecutive years must submit a plan for improvement to the state.
Susan Inman, a director at the Education Department, said Oregon's recent waiver from the rigid federal No Child Left Behind law will help the state's ESL program become more innovative. The state recently won a $6.3 million federal grant to create a new assessment test, and it plans to recommend new instructional materials for districts.
More than 150 languages besides English are spoken by Oregon children and their families. Spanish is the most common, followed by Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese.
Oregon rates English language learners on a scale from 1 to 5. Students at Level 1 are beginners and those at Level 5 are advanced.
The goal is to help students become proficient in speaking, reading and writing English within five years. Children are expected to progress one level a year in order to exit the program in that timeframe, though educators note that not all kids can be expected to improve at the same pace.
According to the report, most districts failed to have a sufficient number of students making that one-level-per-year progression, and also failed to meet federal achievement targets on state reading-and-math tests.
The majority of districts did meet one goal, exceeding the target for how many students with five years in the program reached English proficiency.
No district with a substantial number of English language learners received an overall "met" on the report. The 19 districts that did so have fewer than 100 students receiving English language services, such as the Vale School District near Idaho and the Dallas School District 15 miles west of Salem.
— Associated Press