By Kristine Thomas
In August, Robert Frost Elementary School in Silverton learned it did not meet the Average Yearly Progress requirements outlined under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
This month, the school received an “Exceptional” rating on its report card from the Oregon Department of Education.
The discrepancy between the two ratings is an example of the flaws in way schools are graded by the federal government and don’t accurately paint a picture of the work being done in public schools, said both Silver Falls School District Superintendent Craig Roessler and Mt. Angel School District Superintendent Bob Young.
“What the state and the federal government are looking at are two different things,” Young said. “I think most parents know what’s happening in their schools isn’t reflected in the (schools’) report cards. Most parents are happy with what’s going on in their schools regardless of the conflicting report card information.”
Each fall, Oregon public schools receive three ratings: the Oregon school report cards; student achievement on state tests in reading, writing, mathematics and science; and the federal Average Yearly Progress report required under No Child Left Behind. This is the 10th year the state of Oregon has issued report cards. NCLB began when President George Bush signed the act into law on Jan. 8, 2002.
According to a press release from the Oregon Department of Education, of the three reports, the report card offers the most complete look at how schools are performing because they include a more thorough review of school quality.
Oregon’s school report cards include information about student test performance, school improvement, attendance, dropout rates, class size, SAT scores, expulsions due to weapons, and teacher education and experience. Schools earn overall ratings of Exceptional, Strong, Satisfactory, Low or Unacceptable.
No Child Left Behind grades schools on the performance of students in groups, including special education, low income and those learning English as a second language. If one group receives a low rating, the entire school is rated as failing.
In the Mt. Angel School District, Mt. Angel Middle School had a “Strong” rating and Kennedy High and St. Mary’s Public schools received “Satisfactory” grades from the state, but all three did not meet federal AYP standards.
In the Silver Falls School District, Bethany Charter, Central Howell, Evergreen, Pratum and Robert Frost schools earned “Exceptional” grades from the state. In 2007, only Evergreen and Pratum received an “Exceptional”.
Eugene Field and Victor Point schools received “Strong” grades this year. Butte Creek, Mark Twain, Monitor, Scotts Mills, Silver Crest and Silverton High School were noted as “Satisfactory”.
Roessler said the achievement by the schools receiving strong and exceptional grades is something to be celebrated.
“We are always proud of a school’s achievement when the staff, parents and students work together to do the best job they can,” he said.
Of the 1,130 Oregon schools rated in 2007-08, 129 schools or 11.4 percent were “Exceptional;” 414 or 36.6 percent “Strong;” 555 or 49.1 percent “Satisfactory;” 20 or 1.8 percent “Low;” and 12 or 1.1 percent “Unacceptable.”
Both Young and Roessler said next year the state will change its grading to Outstanding, Satisfactory, or In Need of Improvement. The change will bring the Oregon rating system into closer alignment with No Child Left Behind and reduce confusion.
The 2008 Presidential Election also may bring changes to the federal program.
“Under the current administration, the changes won’t happen,” Roessler said. “Most people see the flaws in the NCLB and think measuring schools by the amount of growth each student makes is a more reasonable approach.”