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Tim Fought Associated Press Writer
Published: 04 August 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The state Education Department reports modest improvements for Oregon high schools and middle schools in measurements taken because of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.

Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo

Figures released Monday showed the percentage of the state's 1,195 public schools making "adequate yearly progress'' in the latest school year increased two percentage points, to 72 percent.
The rate has varied some over the years, in the high 60s or low 70s, according to state figures, but stands about where it was in the first yearly report, for 2003-2004, when it was 71 percent.
The 2009-2010 report comes as the law nears the end of its first decade and a move is expected next year to rewrite it.
As the law stands, schools face what many critics think is an impossible task: improving test scores so markedly in the next four years that every student is reading and doing math at grade level.
Meeting the goal in Oregon could get even more difficult. There will be fewer teachers this fall term teaching fewer days over the school year as the weight of Oregon's state budget shortfall falls on local districts.
The preliminary figures Monday showed slight gains in school performance, Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a statement, but ``they also reveal that far too many Oregon students are still not receiving the supports they need to succeed in school.''
Under the law, the ``adequate yearly progress'' of Oregon schools is based on tests in mathematics and in English and language skills, as well as attendance or graduation statistics.
The state department said:
-- The percentage of elementary districts meeting the standards is slightly less than 89, little changed from last year.
-- The percentage of middle schools meeting standards rose about four points, to nearly 45 percent.
-- The percentage of high schools rose about five points, to slightly less than 50 percent.
Under the rules, schools fail to meet the standards if test results fall short among the entire student body or within subgroups such as impoverished, minority or special education students.
Schools that miss the targets for two consecutive years in any one category go on an ``In Need of Improvement'' list. If the school districts, like most, take federal aid, they face escalating pressure to help students or give them alternatives.
Seventy-seven Oregon schools are on the ``needs improvement'' list for next school year, the department said. Seven schools this are off the list, having made the targets two years in a row.
Most schools on the list have been there one or two years, but others have been on it for extended periods. Four middle schools in the Salem-Keizer district, for example, have been listed four to six years. A fifth Salem-Keizer middle school, Claggett Creek, emerged from the list this year.
Getting off the list is about to become more difficult because, like a pupil putting off study until the morning of a test, Oregon ``backloaded'' the rate of improvement required for schools to meet the annual targets. Next year, the number of students who must pass the tests will rise to 70 percent, up by at least 10 percentage points.
By then, Washington, D.C., may have turned its attention to reforming the law, something that has taken a back seat to health care, climate change, war and economics.
Pat Burk, an education professor at Portland State who helped develop the testing and statistics apparatus as a state Education Department leader in the early 2000s, said the Obama administration supports different ideas for measuring educational performance.
One is to judge schools as a whole to distinguish between schools that are ``chronically low performing'' and those that fail in just one category or within one group, he said, and another is to judge students in a ``growth model'' that measures how they perform over time.
Burk said the administration accompanies those ideas with stringent, escalating sanctions that include dismissing principals and up to half the teachers in a school and move on to closing individual schools and reopening them as charter schools.
``The administration is moving forward more aggressively but in a more thoughtful and rational way,'' he said. `` ... I think that's what the public expects of us.''


For the  Oregon Education News Release click here

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