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10th-graders make gains in reading, math

In a dichotomy that could prove troubling for the class of 2013, 10th-graders across the state made record gains in reading and math scores on the annual state assessment but lost traction in writing, and Jackson County showed a similar trend, according to a report released Monday by the Oregon Department of Education.

That's significant because students graduating in 2012 must show proficiency in reading in order to graduate. By 2013, students must show proficiency in reading and writing to receive their high school diplomas, then in math in 2014. Science is not included in the proficiency requirements, though it's still tested in the state assessment.

"The class of 2012 showed unprecedented gains in reading and solid gains in math and science," said Oregon schools Superintendent Susan Castillo. "These gains indicate that more of our students are better prepared to meet the new rigorous Oregon diploma requirements, and this is excellent news."

But Castillo tempered the good news with a call for more work in writing and science.

With statewide writing scores already weak, the decline on average of two percentage points in 10th grade writing doesn't bode well for 2013.

Statewide, 10th-graders who passed reading rose by five percentage points from 2008-2009, while passing rates in math went up an average of two percentage points at all grade levels, according to ODE.

There were also smaller gains in reading for grades third through eighth.

There were mixed results in science, where fifth- and eighth-graders lost ground but 10th-graders had gains of two percentage points.

Likewise, in Jackson County, Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Phoenix-Talent, Prospect and Rogue River increased their 10th-grade reading rates.

The county's largest district, Medford, which had a one percentage point decline in 10th-grade reading scores from last year, improved its 10th-grade writing scores by nearly seven percentage points. Medford's 10th-grade writing scores increased from a passing rate of 44.6 percent to 51.1 percent.

"Our 10th-grade writing has been a focus over the last few years, but it's something that as a district we are working on this year at all grade levels," said Debbie Connolly, Medford schools curriculum supervisor.

Tenth-grade reading declined from 76.8 percent to 75.6 percent in the Medford district, but still stood in a good light next to the state's average of 71 percent.

Butte Falls was the only other Jackson County district that had a decline in reading scores, down to 43.8 percent from 63.6 percent the previous year.

Ashland and Eagle Point also improved 10th-grade writing scores, though Eagle Point's passing rate remained below 50 percent. The 10th-grade writing scores at Butte Falls, Central Point, Phoenix-Talent, Prospect and Rogue River fell.

In math, Ashland, Butte Falls, Central Point, Eagle Point and Medford increased their passing rates at the 10th grade, while Phoenix-Talent's, Prospect's and Rogue River's decreased.

More 10th-graders also passed science in the Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford and Prospect districts, while fewer passed in the Butte Falls, Phoenix-Talent and Rogue River districts.

Paris Achen is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.