The full summaries of Oregon school ratings are out, after attempts to delay their release until after the November election drew public outcry this week.
Gov. Kate Brown was accused of playing politics with a potentially damaging report on Oregon public schools ahead of a tight election battle. Education leaders said Brown was not involved in the decision to delay the reports' release, and they've now shared the full reports.
The release controversy aside, the report cards largely show the same shortcomings and struggles for Oregon schools that have been clear on previous state ratings and assessment reports for the last several years.
The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act has more of a focus on supporting low-performing schools. And Oregon's ratings show that support is more likely to go to low-performing high schools than to programs for younger kids.
More than 80 percent of schools tagged for “comprehensive” support in Oregon are high schools.
A big reason for that direction of resources is a provision in Oregon's federally approved accountability plan that designates high schools with low graduation rates get support. The plan states that high schools with grad rates below 67 percent are generally tagged for comprehensive support.
"Comprehensive support" means state officials will work with local districts to create and carry out improvement strategies that address a variety of specific problems, based on local data and conditions. State officials are quick to emphasize that being labeled for support is not meant to be punitive, as labels were often interpreted under the old federal No Child Left Behind law. Conversely, the Every Student Succeeds Act is meant to provide low-achieving schools with plans and guidance, rather than providing opportunities for students to leave.
Many of the high schools identified for support are charter schools, like the Alsea Charter School on the Oregon coast, and online programs such as the Clackamas Web Academy, Oregon Connections Academy and Oregon Virtual Academy. High schools receiving support included a handful of traditional high schools — like Springfield and Myrtle Point. A number of alternative programs for students at-risk of dropping out are tagged for the extra help as well, such as Portland's Alliance High School and Roberts High School in Salem.
Oregon’s school ratings also incorporated standardized test scores and attendance — both of which tend to be challenges statewide.
Dozens of schools, many of them also high schools, will receive specialized support based on their low participation rates. Schools are expected to test 95 percent of students, but due to the unpopularity of the Smarter Balanced exams in Oregon, and the state's permissive "opt-out" law, many schools fall below that standard.
Many of the lowest-rated elementary and middle schools have large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds. Seven Portland neighborhood schools were identified for "comprehensive support," including Boise-Eliot, Lents, Rigler, Rosa Parks, Scott and Sitton elementaries, and Cesar Chavez K-8.
Salem-Keizer also had seven elementary schools identified for the greatest level of support: Bush, Four Corners, Hoover, Richmond, Scott, Swegle and Weddle. The Reynolds School District in east Multnomah County also had several schools labeled for support, including Davis, Fairview, Glenfair and Salish Ponds elementary schools, the local alternative high school Reynolds Learning Academy and Reynolds Middle School.
The state’s plan puts the highest priority on districts with multiple low-performing schools, suggesting Portland, Reynolds and Salem-Keizer could get greater attention from the state than any of the roughly 40 districts with only one school identified for additional support.