There's good news and bad news with this year's annual school achievement tests: 90 percent of Portland's elementary schools met all the federal standards, but none of the high schools were able to jump over all of the dozens of achievement, test participation and graduation hurdles required to earn the coveted "met" designation.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Oregon schools must test students in the third through the eighth grades, and again in 10th grade, in math and in English/language arts. At least 49 percent must pass the math portion, and 50 percent must pass the English section to meet the standards.
Other standards, such as the rate of participation of students taking the tests, graduation and attendance rates for several subgroups of students also must be achieved. These include ethnic groups, such as African American, Hispanic and Asian students; economically disadvantaged students; students with disabilities; and those with limited English proficiency.
The Portland school board's attempt to improve test scores at three high schools by splitting the schools into smaller, specialty programs also appears to have failed.
At Jefferson High School, for instance, Jefferson's "School of Champions" for juniors and seniors did not turn in enough data to record on the report presented recently by the Oregon state Department of Education.
Although the School of Pride, for freshmen and sophomores, had enough data, the results indicated that Jefferson's new principal, Leon Dudley, will have a lot of work to do this year. In English and language arts exams, 30 percent met the standards; in math tests, only about 15 percent met the standards.
The effort to ramp up the academic rigor at Jefferson will continue next year, when Dudley takes over. Hailed by Portland Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips for his ability to close achievement gaps, Dudley will oversee the implementation of two new academies at Jefferson, which will replace the schools of Pride and Champions. Another two single-sex academies for men and women will open in the fall of 2007.
The new Academy of Science and Technology, according to the brochure developed for the course, will require students to complete four years of math, culminating in calculus or statistics; four years of science, all reaching a seminar in research and medicine or an advanced placement course; four years of English, three years of social science; a course in digital media and technology; two years of a foreign language; six electives; and a portfolio project.
Every class will be an honors class, according to the brochure, and students will learn to develop critical thinking, "using Socratic seminars, essential questions and problem-based learning." Focused mainly on health careers, classes will concentrate on chemistry and physical science, and explore scientific inquiry techniques. Students will develop personal education plans, including internships, community and business partnerships and "early-college" options, leading to admission to the Oregon university system.
Although no one at the school was available to comment on the academy, the brochure said that for "students to blossom personally and intellectually, we must create a school where it is safe to focus on teaching and learning."
The academy's "small, personalized environment" enables students and teachers to build "relationships based on respect, not authority," the brochure states. "The young adults (at the academy) grow by experiencing the intrinsic rewards that come from working hard and being nice, and learning from the consequences of poor decisions."
Students enrolling in the Academy of Arts and Technology will experience a combined arts and college preparatory program, according to the brochure developed for the academy.
They will be required to take three years of math, four years of English, three years of science, three years of social sciences, eight credits of applied and fine arts, and to develop a project. Their physical education requirement will be met through the dance program.
The arts academy's "vision," the brochure says, is to "build on Jefferson's nationally acclaimed dance program." The arts and technology program begun at Ockley Green Middle School will continue at the Jefferson Arts and Technology Academy. All full-time students in the academy will have the opportunity to participate in the dance program and recitals, with the "possibility of achieving Jefferson Dancer status."
Students also will develop internships with adults working in arts-related fields and mentorships will be created. The school also will connect with some Portland Community College programs.
All of the academies will participate in athletic teams, clubs and all-campus activities.
The specialty schools at Roosevelt High School also did not meet standards; these schools are:
• Arts, Communication & Technology School (ACT): 37 percent met the goal in English; 19 percent met the goal in math;
• Pursuit of Wellness Education at Roosevelt (POWER): English: 29 percent met the standards; Math: 17 percent met them.
• Spanish-English International School (SEIS): English: 30 percent met the standards; Math: 27 percent met the standards.
Marshall High School's specialty schools also failed the test:
• BizTech High School: English: 32 percent met the standards; Math: 19 percent met them.
• Pauling Academy of Integrated Sciences: English: 28 percent met the standards; Math; 29 percent met the standards
• Renaissance Arts Academy: English, 35 percent met the standards; Math: 23 percent met the standards.