How Are Our Schools Doing?

College & Career Readiness | 09/27/2016

Parasa Chanramy
Policy and Advocacy Manager

Parasa manages advocacy programs, working with members and elected leaders to improve schools.

Before I started working at Stand for Children, I used to be an elementary school teacher at a school that was, and is still, changing the odds for so many students.

One of the many measures that we used to evaluate how we were doing was scores from the state test.

Why were state test scores important to us?

Test scores helped us see how our school was doing academically compared to other schools across the state each year.

To put this in perspective, I want to draw on an example that was shared by a teacher from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year:

“You may look good playing baseball in the A League when you are winning all the time, so you move up to AAA. And you [lose], because the caliber of player you are up against is suddenly so much higher. But that isn’t a reason to drop back and play in A again—just to look good. No, you stay in AAA, your skills improve from playing at a higher standard, and soon you are winning again in the higher leagues. We all want to play in the Big Show and this is how you get there!”

The results helped us reflect and discuss important questions -- How did we do? What are our strengths? How do we know that? What are our areas of improvement? How do we know that? What could we do better over the summer to help our students catch up? What can we do differently to make sure that all of our kids are successful? What could we learn from other schools that are doing better?

Knowing how our school did compare to other schools also helped shape our improvement efforts and key decisions around professional learning, curriculum selection, and instructional programming.

Just to be clear: the statewide tests weren’t the only measures we used. We also utilized other forms of assessment (diagnostic, formative, and interim) to track student progress throughout the year, and make sure that we were tailoring our instruction to each student's needs and helping each child excel.

Earlier this month, our State Education Department released the test scores on how students did on the state Smarter Balanced test. The Smarter Balanced test is administered in grades 3-8, and 11th grade; it measures how students perform on a set of grade-level standards in English Language Arts and math.

Results from the state tests continue to be sobering. They show us that Oregon schools have a very long way to go in terms of helping all kids achieve and be college- and career-ready.

There are some glimmers of hope that we can learn from. Oregonian reporter Betsy Hammond recently reported on four Oregon schools whose students performed well on the statewide exam: “They show that an Oregon school can propel nearly all its students to that level, even when parents aren't perfect, funding is tight and a growing share of students are low-income or non-white.” 

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