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Eagle Point schools garner high, low grades

The Oregon Department of Education last week released new lists of high- and low-performing schools across the state, with one of each identified in the Eagle Point School District.

The new lists of model, focus and priority schools replace previous ratings of outstanding, satisfactory and in need of improvement on state report cards, and identify fewer schools.

The new rankings were released after Oregon was awarded a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act last month.

Shady Cove School was listed as a model school, performing in the top five percent of schools in poverty-stricken areas.

Meanwhile, Eagle Point's Little Butte School, now named Hillside Elementary, scored in the lowest 15 percent of Title 1 schools, earning the ranking of focus.

"I'm excited that we have a model school and a focus school," said Tina Mondale, director of school improvement for the Eagle Point School District, who added she hopes the model school can help improve the focus school.

Mondale said the drastic difference in designations between Shady Cove and Hillside may be related to the small size of Shady Cove and the larger special education population at Hillside.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, model schools such as Shady Cove will be expected to share their strategies for success with lower-performing focus schools such as Hillside and priority schools, which rank in the bottom 5 percent.

Mondale said that the principal of Shady Cove, Tiffanie Lambert, has a background in special education, which may come in handy when mentoring Hillside, which has many special education students.

"There's going to be a natural expertise when those two principals work together," said Mondale.

The new system of rankings relieves schools across the state from the strict benchmarks of the "one-size-fits-all model" of No Child Left Behind, according to Terri Dahl, supervisor of federal programs in the Medford School District.

Dahl said it was "great" that no Medford schools made any of the lists. She said she likes that the new growth-based report cards will take into account how much a student has grown in comparison to other students at the same level across the state.

If a student scores in the 45th percentile on a state test one year, Dahl explained, their growth will be measured and compared to other students who also scored in the 45th percentile.

A school's ranking is based on the growth of its students compared to other students who were at the same level.

"It's a fairer formula," said Dahl.

Only Title 1 schools, which have a high percentage of low-income students and accept additional federal funding because of the students, are labeled as model, focus and priority, though all schools will have growth measured.

Dahl said the new formula is more user-friendly and easier for parents to understand, but the new rankings shouldn't be mistaken as easier for schools.

"You still have a trajectory that needs to be met," said Dahl. "It's still a rigorous process."

In the past, Dahl said, schools in Medford had made improvements but weren't recognized for their growth under No Child Left Behind, which expected all students to reach the same benchmarks.

Hillside Elementary was labeled as satisfactory for the last nine years but failed to meet annual progress benchmarks in reading and math for two of the last three years.

Marked as satisfactory or strong since the creation of the state report, Shady Cove School has met annual yearly benchmarks for eight of the last nine years.

The Eagle Point School District will take a team of employees from Hillside and Shady Cove to Eugene on Monday to receive training on the roles and responsibilities of the schools.

Though no schools in Medford made any of the lists, Dahl said the new ratings will recognize improving schools such as Howard Elementary.

Dahl said that although Howard had improved its test scores in recent years, the improvements weren't enough to bring them out of "school improvement" status in the state's eyes.

"They have been making growth with those kids," said Dahl.

A year from now, districts with schools labeled as focus or priority may be asked to set aside as much as 20 percent of their Title 1 funds to work on support and intervention for those schools.

Schools identified as lower-performing this year will be monitored by the Oregon Department of Education for the next four years, but ODE has yet to come up with a timeline for identifying more schools in the upcoming years.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.