Eighth-graders tested above the state average in language arts and math for the first time in more than a decade.
SALEM, Oregon—The Oregon Department of Education today released the 2016-17 state assessment results. For the first time in more than a decade, Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) eighth-graders tested above the state average in both language arts and math. That growth translated into high school performance, where SKPS students achieved three percentage points higher than the state average in both English Language Arts and Math.
“We’re making a shift in how we approach our curriculum in elementary years, and as a result, we’re seeing great improvements in learning and understanding for our students in the middle years and beyond,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “Many of our students don’t speak English as a first language, so that first major test in English can be intimidating and difficult.”
As part of the district’s strategic plan, SKPS has committed to improving and supporting student performance. Elementary schools have aligned curriculum and systems in addition to the implementation of ReadyGEN, an integrated and balanced approach to reading and writing instruction. To help facilitate English language proficiency, SKPS has begun utilizing bilingual units aligned with English literacy. In middle schools, school staff and leaders are focusing intently on student learning needs. Much of this work is done in collaborative teams using student work and data to drive instruction in addition to timely interventions and extensions for students.
The 2016-17 school year is the third year the test has been administered aligned to the Smarter Balanced standards. By looking at how cohorts perform on the test, parents and educators can measure the growth of the same groups of students from year to year. For instance:
- Fourth-graders realized a growth of one percentage point in achievement from the previous year in English Language Arts
- Fifth-graders achieved a growth of five percentage points in achievement from the 2014-15 school year in English Language Arts
- Both seventh- and eighth-graders achieved a growth of three percentage points in English Language Arts
Most notably, seventh-graders’ achievement in math grew by eight percentage points from the previous year. This growth may be attributed to a 60 percent increase in students taking seventh-grade accelerated math across the district.
“We are committed to seeing our students grow,” said Assistant Superintendent Kelly Carlisle. “A key to that growth is offering access to rigor. We’re seeing that now as a result of our accelerated math classes. While we know these tests aren’t the total assessment of a child’s abilities, it helps us as educators to be more effective.”
While tests were also administered in science, those tests don’t count toward students’ ability to graduate. Currently, sixth- and seventh-grade students only receive a half-year of science due to limited facilities. The 2018 proposed bond referendum includes upgrades to middle school facilities in order to offer full-year courses.
Across the state, test results showed drops in almost every tested grade with the exception of high school.
- Early College High – 29 percentage point growth in math and 28 percentage point grown in English Language Arts from previous year
- McKay High – eight percentage point growth in English Language Arts/Reading from previous year
- West Salem High – 19 percentage point growth in math from previous year
- Walker Middle – eight percentage point growth in eighth-grade math cohort
- Whiteaker Middle – eighth-graders performed 10 percentage points better than the state average in English Language Arts
- Waldo Middle – 11 percentage point growth in eighth-grade English Language Arts cohort
- Swegle Elementary – fifth-graders had a 15 percentage point gain in English Language Arts cohort
- Schirle Elementary – fifth-graders performed 18 percentage points higher than the state average in math
- Kennedy Elementary – fifth-graders had a 19 percentage point gain in English Language Arts
For complete results, click here.
SKPS is the second-largest school district in the state of Oregon, with more than 5,000 employees serving 42,000 students in 65 schools in the cities of Salem and Keizer. SKPS also serves the most impoverished population in the state, with 61% of students considered living in poverty. Eighteen percent of SKPS students speak a language other than English as a first language.
Photo: A kindergarten student at Swegle Elementary practices writing letters. Students at Swegle are taught in both Spanish and English to build proficiency in the English language.