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By The Skanner News
Published: 20 September 2006

Oregon is taking another stab at joining the handful of states being allowed to pilot a new way of measuring student progress under the No Child Left Behind federal education law.
Only North Carolina and Tennessee have so far been tapped for the pilot program, which tracks how individual students perform in math and reading over time, known as a "growth model."
Oregon's initial proposal was rejected this spring, but state education officials say they've altered it to address concerns raised by federal officials.
Education officials in Oregon have been keen on growth models for months, saying that tracking test scores of individual students gives a far better pictures of how much progress schools and classroom teachers are making.
Under the current system, schools must compare the scores of different groups of kids from one year to the next -- the performance of this year's third-graders, for example, will be measured against their counterparts from last year.
Whether this year's third-graders outperform last year's helps determine whether schools have made enough progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Schools that both fail to meet the law's testing goals and receive federal poverty aid can face sanctions.
Oregon's original proposal was rejected in part because federal authorities were concerned about a provision to combine the testing scores of high- and low-scoring students to determine how much progress an individual school had made.
That could potentially mask the scores of students who aren't doing as well.
In its revised proposal, submitted this week, Oregon pledges to use the model to measure growth for each individual student, and calculate a school's performance by figuring out a percentage of how many students are meeting testing targets.
The state has also vowed to use scores from different groups to calculate a school and district's overall performance, including Black, Hispanic and special education students, as well as those who are still learning to speak English, and those who come from poorer families.
Oregon has some key selling points in pitching itself as a candidate for the pilot program, including the development of a statewide database that allows for the tracking of a student's academic progress, even if they switch school districts.
State education officials have also said using such a model will recognize schools whose students have made big leaps, even if they haven't yet measured up to the testing goals set out by the law.
No Child Left Behind requires 100 percent of students to be reading, writing and doing math and science at grade level by 2014. Students are tested in grades 3-8 and at the 10th-grade level.
Some education observers have said that being allowed to track the progress of individual students might reduce the number of schools that are publicly listed each year as not meeting the No Child Left Behind goals, which this year required 50 percent of all students to be at or above grade level in English, and 49 percent to meet that bar in math.
About 30 percent of Oregon schools were publicly listed as "needing improvement" under the federal law this year.
If Oregon's revised proposal is approved, the state would use the individual student data in its next rating of schools under the federal law, in the fall of 2007.
-- The Associated Press


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