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Jackson County assessment data show some gains

Ashland School District saw some of the biggest gains out of Jackson County school districts in test scores achieved by its youngest students last year, latest data shows.

Third graders in Ashland bucked the state trend of declining scores with a 12-percentage point gain in reading to reach 69.3% proficiency, and a 14-percentage point gain in math to reach 68.4% proficiency in 2019.

Statewide, reading fell slightly and math proficiency among third-graders stayed the same.

“We are thrilled for our students and community,” said Ashland School District Superintendent Kelly Raymond. “Our continued multi-tiered systems approach as well as professional learning and implementation of evidenced-based culturally responsive instructional strategies have contributed to our increased student achievement.”

The new test data, released Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education, shows a smattering of gains and losses for districts in each subject. Medford and Ashland remain the only school districts in Jackson County that surpass the state in math and reading scores averaged across all grades. Across all grades, Medford students had 56.3% proficiency in reading and 40.1% in math, while Central Point students tested 46.1% in reading and 31.2% in math, and Ashland students were 72.6% proficient in reading and 58.8% in math/

Oregon students’ achievement across all grades dropped from 2018 to 2019, to 53.4% proficiency in reading and 39.4% in math.

In the last three years, proficiency levels have hovered around the same amount, data shows: around 40% proficient in math and 53% in reading.

Locally, Prospect School District saw the largest gain in math scores across all grades, rising 4.8 percentage points. Medford, Ashland and Central Point all saw slight decreases in their proficiency rates.

Only Ashland saw more than 60% of students — those in third and seventh grade — achieve math proficiency.

But the “all grades” data brushes over the nuances between the testing requirements; third graders test three times every year, while high school juniors test just once in the spring.

School staff will now parse through the data for their smaller communities, examining the outcomes among students of different races and ethnicities, different socioeconomic statuses, those who use special education services and those who don’t.

Students’ reading proficiency in third grade is seen as a key indicator of their trajectory to achieve academically as they continue in their education.

Both the Medford and Ashland School District school board have targeted raising third grade reading levels in their goals.

Dan Smith, principal of North Medford High School said reading and writing comprehension skills filter into all other subjects.

“That’s how you access the other curriculum,” he said.

Smith said an “implementation dip” could account for the 10-percentage point dip in math proficiency at North, as the school worked with new math curriculum last school year. It was the first change to math curriculum in about a dozen years, he said.

“We’ll be disaggregating scores with teacher leaders to analyze what our next steps are to up those math scores,” he said.

Smith highlighted the AVID college-readiness program, which the school district has used since 2016.

AVID targets supports for students who have an interest in college and who have demonstrated some academic aptitude, but who may face challenges including barriers to access higher education, whether from their family background or other circumstances.

Programs such as AVID and English Language Learner supports contribute to gains from historically underserved students, including the Hispanic and Latino population.

Those students at North Medford High School tested proficient in English language arts at a rate of 74% in 2019, according to the data.

That’s 5.5 percentage points above the proficiency rate for white students at the school, but still 5 percentage points below the rate for all students. Still, it’s a smaller gap than at other local high schools.

Schools are working to shrink those gaps. At schools including Jefferson Elementary School in the Medford School District, the rates for economically disadvantaged students are the same as the overall student population, because the student populations are the same.

Schoolwide, Jefferson achieved 56.7% proficiency in English language arts in 2019, a rise from 2018, and 43.7% proficiency in math.

Though she acknowledges that the school wants to see further improvement from the 48.5% proficiency rate in third-grade reading and writing (corrected), for example, Shelly Inman, Jefferson’s principal, said that the data show continuous improvement, especially throughout the year as students test multiple times.

“It’s just the Jefferson culture,” she said, “knowing the students personally and academically and just figuring out what their need is, based on assessment data and knowing the student and then targeting the instruction to match that need.”

She and Raymond both pointed to data that will be included in the state’s annual report card, which will likely be released next month. Those report cards include more granular information on individual student growth and freshmen who are on track to graduate by their senior year.

Oregon initially saw a significant drop statewide when it switched from the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills to the Smarter Balanced Assessment in the 2014-2015 school year.

Smith said proficiency gains the district has achieved since then “really speaks to the resiliency of the educator.”

“It takes a teacher to make that happen,” he said.

This article has been corrected to clarify that Jefferson Elementary's 48.5% English language arts proficiency rate was achieved by its third grade class. The schoolwide English language arts proficiency rate was also added.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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