Parents across Oregon will start getting new report cards Thursday not for their kids, but for the schools they attend. In years past, schools would get a single grade such as outstanding or unsatisfactory.
Thursday’s report cards have two grades. Rob Manning explains what those grades are - and how schools are measuring up.
- Level 1 schools represent the bottom 5% of schools.
- Level 2 schools represent the next lowest 10%.
- Level 3 makes up the next 30% of schools.
- Level 4 represents the largest share of schools, those that fall between 44% and 90% of schools.
- Level 5 represents the top 10%.
Schools are also rated as below average, about average, or above average as compared to similar schools with similar student demographics (including percent poverty, mobility, students of color, and English learners).
Schools get a “one” to “five” — with a “five” as the best based on whether students are learning as quickly as students at other Oregon schools.
And starting this year, schools are rated as average, or above or below average, depending on how they compare to schools with similar demographics.
Crystal Greene is a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Education.
“In some cases, it will present a different picture, a picture that, that community is not used to seeing. And that might be that they’re doing better compared to schools with similar demographics. It may also show that they’re not doing as well, as they thought they had, and that the previous rating system may have masked some of the work that they still need to do,” Greene says.
Lincoln High in Portland is seldom considered “below average,” but that’s how it rates against schools with similar student populations. Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Erin Hoover Barnett questions the rating for Lincoln. But she says the state’s largest district is happy with the positive light shining on other Portland schools.
“Harrison Park K-8, Grout K-5, Kelly K-5, Creston K-8 - they all ranked as a Level 4 and also an ‘above average.’ They are federal poverty schools and also a high level of foreign language being spoken in the schools,” she said.
Portland had slightly more than the state average, in terms of schools rated “4” and “5.”
Bend-LaPine led the state’s big districts, in terms of “above average” schools and high numerical ratings. Of the district’s 28 schools, 26 got a 4 or 5. That’s 92 percent of the district’s schools, compared to the state’s 55 percent average.
“We’re never satisfied if we have any schools that are not rated high,” says Bend superintendent Ron Wilkinson.
Other districts didn’t perform as well. Gresham-Barlow has a far larger share of low-rated schools than the state as a whole.
“Report card ratings are really based, extensively, on the percentage of kids meeting or exceeding the standard, in reading and math,” says Gresham’s accountability director, Tim Drilling.
He says the low scores are a result of inadequate funding that cut school days, a shifting toward new national content standards that aren’t on the current Oregon test and a limit on how often Gresham kids are tested.
“We think it’s the right thing to do, but in the short term, it will push our ‘meets’ and ‘exceeds’ percentage down,” Drilling says.
There aren’t immediate consequences for schools at the low end of the ratings system, unless they were already identified as “focus” or “priority” schools.
But, state and district officials say the new information will help educators — and parents — see how well schools are doing the job of teaching kids.