This week, the 2011 NAEP scores were released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only assessment of student learning that is given to students across the nation- making it a significant tool for comparisons across states. A representative sample of 4th and 8th graders take the exam in reading and math every two years.

On the whole compared to 2009, the new data showed small improvements in math and relatively flat scores in reading.  In Oregon, scores held steady compared to 2009 with no significant improvements or declines.

State Superintendent Susan Castillo said of the results, “While we didn’t see drastic changes from the previous NAEP results, we are not seeing the improvements in student performance that we know Oregon needs in order to compete nationally and internationally.”

Indeed, looking further back to 2003 some states have made substantial progress, particularly for their low income students, while Oregon has not.

Here’s a chart of 4th grade reading scores that splits out higher income and low income students and shows their progress between 2003 and 2011. While higher income students in Oregon have made gains over the years, low income students have not.

An analysis of NAEP scores by The Education Trust shows that although Oregon may be holding steady in scores, we are falling behind other states. One of the key findings of their analysis stated, “California, Michigan, Missouri and Oregon consistently rank among the bottom states in both performance and improvement, overall and by subgroup, in both subjects and grades.”

We don’t believe “consistently ranking at the bottom” is good enough for Oregon’s students. We will continue to work with educators and other stakeholders to strengthen our education system and help move Oregon towards becoming one of the top performing states in the nation.

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23 Responses to “2011 NAEP Scores: How is Oregon really doing?”

  1. kona says:

    This closely reflects changing demographics rather than negative changes in Oregon education, I believe. This will be ongoing as Oregon embraces low income demographic sectors. I would appreciate differing opinions.

  2. Steve Buel says:

    Oregon is doing better in upper socio-economic schools than in lower socio-economic schools probably because for the last several years we have been using a test-driven curriculum in the lower socio-economic schools, whereas the wealthier schools don’t worry about the tests so much and have stronger curriculums. If this is the case, and I believe it is, it means that the present state methods of pushing for more testing and accountabliltiy is going in exactly the wrong direction. Chalkboard should lead the way in moving to a more curriculum oriented, single school responsibility type of reform making sure that opportunities are in place instead of worrying about general outcomes. In fact, the old educational system which was considered the best in the world combined with the new wrap-around social support system for kids who are struggling is the direction reform should be moving. Of course, there would be no more grants for organizations such as Chalkboard and Stand for Children based on educational reform. But if you want to use data analysis and research to guide your reform then going back 30 or more years to use the outstanding, world-leading educational system parts of which were considered the best in the world (and the U.S.’s world- leading innovation and technology were the result of it) makes a good place to start.

    So, Chalkboard would be working on getting better libraries with certificated, well-trained librarians, creating programs inside and outside of the school day which help engage middle schoolers in school, encouraging schools to work on their own specific problems instead of bringing in “general solutions” from Duluth or someplace, making sure that there are serious remedial help for students who are behind, not based on what the school is doing to improve a kid’s test score, but on what the school is doing to improve a kid’s education, making sure all children receive an education with a strong curriculum which expands their educational horizons instead of narrowing them by using a test-driven curriculum. Of course, your organization would look different, but it might really have a positive impact. Best of luck.

  3. Susan Barrett says:

    As a parent, I wish Chalkboard and other organizations would stop focusing on test scores. Our kids need and deserve a well-rounded education which we cannot get with such an emphasis. I was terribly disturbed to read an article in Metro Parent over the summer by Sue Hildick that showed that the teacher mentoring Chalkboard was doing was raising test scores. $5 million came from our school funding to go to teacher mentoring and this is how it was spent? Mentoring new teachers is a good thing, but not if the focus is on raising test scores. I would greatly appreciate if well-funded and staffed organizations like Chalkboard would put their efforts into building up our schools for all kids. We need music, art, libraries, sports, supplies, healthy buildings, kids need food, clothing, books, etc. This focus on testing is not only diminishing the learning of our children, but their passion for learning. It is also driving the enthusiasm out of our teachers.

    • kona says:

      Susan,

      Thank you for your comments. What do you suggest for “building up our schools for all kids. We need music, art, libraries, sports, supplies, healthy buildings, kids need food, clothing, books, etc.”

      Oregon has spent more per student than Washington and most states for the last three decades. Are you suggesting that Oregon has not spent enough to be competitive with other states? Our teachers have been compensated higher than K-12 teachers in other states for the last three decades. Are you suggesting higher compensation? What are you suggesting as a measure of Oregon K-12 student academic success? How would you suggest that we measure academic success?

  4. kona says:

    Steve,

    The question, “How is Oregon really doing?”

    What would be your answer?

    • Steve Buel says:

      Kona, Oregon is not doing very well, but not because their test scores are low. It is mostly because test scores are what Oregon worries about. As I mention above they need to focus on improving education. Take something as simple as having a library in a school and a certificated librarian. A library is what really motivates kids to read and the librarian gets them going, helps them find books which might interest them, helps them get into good literature, heops them find lots of materials which help students research and on and on. Yet we will have academic coaches who don’t even work with kids and not have quality libraries, if at all. We are short sighted in many, many other ways — throughout our whole curriculums, in not making sure we have activities and classes which engage kids in school, in trying to bring in research from someplace else and value it over what the teachers in our schools and administrators in our schools really think we need to do to improve each individual school. So how are we doing? Not good and with the governor’s attempts to go to prescriptive education and tying outcomes to money we will get worse yet. Too bad the huge number of people involved in that movement can’t see past the political implications and focus on what our schools and kids need to be successful instead of what we think the data and testing show.

  5. kona says:

    Thank you Steve. So, can we narrow this down to specific organizations? ODE? The Governor? The economy? The Oregon political persuasions (Democratic Party)? Illegal immigration? Legal immigration? Or what? Is there a starting point to present your feelings?

  6. Steve Buel says:

    I’m not sure I am following you, Kona. Pretty much all the educational leaders in Oregon are in favor of the reform movement which touts accountablilty, testing, and privatizing education if not in direct support then indirectly by what they support. That is one reason I helped start Oregon Save Our Schools which works for improving eductaion instead of making it worse through the reform movement. One starting point would be for organizations like Chalkboard, Stand for Children, and All Hands Raised to take the same approach — improved education instead of more testing and generalized accountability. The impact would be extremely positive.

  7. kona says:

    I am not sure how I could make my previous post more clear. You seem to be in conflict with about everyone (“Pretty much all the educational leaders in Oregon are in favor of the reform movement which touts accountablilty, testing, and privatizing education if not in direct support then indirectly by what they support”) involved in Oregon education except OEA.

    It seems that most people/organizations desire more accountability in education. Unions naturally resist accountability. Would you accept accountability that didn’t rely as heavily on testing? How would you construct the accountability if it didn’t measure student success?

  8. Steve Buel says:

    I am pretty much in conflict with people supporting the reform movement which wants more accountability, a continued emphasis on testing, and privatization of education. But, that means I am not in conflict with the huge percentage of experienced teachers and most parents I talk to about their children’s schools. They seem to know these reforms are going down the wrong path and making things worse.

    But the complexity of the issue makes it difficult for them to follow what is actually taking place as they often have neither the time nor the background to understand the undercurrents. I mean, who knew Stand for Children for instance was moving into corporate education instead of supporting public education? I mean, they don’t sound like that at all? You have to do some digging to get it. So it is up to organizations like the one I mentioned above, Oregon SOS, to unearth the discrepancies and the motivations behind alot of the reform movement.

    Accountability: School districts need to hold their schools and their teachers responsible for creating educational opportunities, strong curriculums, well-organized and orderly schools, and common sense approaches to education in general. This is their job. If it doesn’t take place then the public is responsible for electing school board members who make sure it takes place. The role of the state is supporting these efforts and making sure children are treated equitably within the districts themselves, i.e. are reading programs in place which focus on helping children who are behind, is science actually being taught in elementary schools, are laws being followed concerning ESL and Sped children etc. It is not their responsibility to make sure teachers are teaching well, nor being evaluated well, nor specifying acceptable outcomes. When the state or the federal government tries to do this (NCLB for instance) then things get worse, not better. Yes, make sure special needs are being met — no, don’t mess with general education. Not that hard really.

  9. kona says:

    You said, “It is not their (representatives of the state, I assume(?)) responsibility to make sure teachers are teaching well, nor being evaluated well, nor specifying acceptable outcomes”.

    So again, I assume (I apologize for assuming) you are suggesting that student outcome/assessment should be left to the local school board. Is that correct? How do the local school boards make this assessment without testing? Do they use graduation rates? Dropout rates? Or what?

    Are you suggesting that the federal government get out of influencing public schools (just send the money, no strings attached)? Or, that the state government get out of influencing K-12 education?

    How do you propose to measure “accountability”? Is there a quantitative measurement that you could accept? Who decides what that quantitative measurement would be?

    You said, “(state or the federal government) don’t mess with general education”. Who is supposed to “mess with general education” and how is it working?

    It seems that your only real support comes from the education unions which stifle accountability in most cases. Is there any connection between Oregon SOS and OEA?

    So, I guess I will return to my previous questions, 1) “Would you accept accountability that didn’t rely as heavily on testing?”, and 2) “How would you construct the accountability if it didn’t measure student success?”

  10. Steve Buel says:

    Kona, you seem to be talking about measuring accountability instead of having accountability. Let’s try an analogy. As a parent do you measure your children’s responsibility and acceptance of such by setting up a system which allows you to measure every child in the country and then use that measure as your own for your own child? Of course not. But this is what people who wish to “measure” teacher accountability try to do. How teachers are teaching is up to the school boards and their district personnel, not the state. A good principal, and we are getting less of them, can tell how a teacher is doing. Just like that parent can tell how their children are doing without some sort of accountability test. So the answer is I wouldn’t set up a system to measure accountability. I think it is a foolish idea. I would hold teachers accountable just like you might hold your children accountable — by their actions. Certain actions are acceptable and certain actions are not. This changes from kid to kid, family to family, as it changes school to school and classroom to classroom.

    Plus, every parent I talk to lately decries the overemphasis on testing. Plus, I count teachers as teachers not as teacher unions. It is experienced teachers who support what I am talking about. Unions have a tendancy to compromise to get along. However, they don’t stifle accountability, they try to create systems which make sure their members are treated fairly. A goal we would all suggest is a good one.

    Local school boards should be the people to “mess with general education” (remember to define it as I have above) and it isn’t working well in many cases because the state and federal government have been taking over that realm. It used to work very well. Remember when the U.S. had the greatest education system in the world. That was local school boards. (Of course, I stated above one of the roles of the federal and state governments is in holding the local districts to following the law. i.e. desegregating schools in the 50′s and 60′s.)

    In the end I think where we differ is that I don’t believe measuring “accountability” in some specific way is a help, but a hindrance. So don’t do it. Which means the question of how you would do it is not a valid one.

  11. kona says:

    1) You aren’t suggesting that we do away with grading systems for students, are you? You said, “Just like that parent can tell how their children are doing without some sort of accountability test”. I think parents rely heavily on their child’s grades and test scores to determine their relative progress.

    2) You said, “How teachers are teaching is up to the school boards and their district personnel, not the state”. Then you suggest that the best measurement is a qualitative measurement by the school principal. Are you sure that is how you would want teachers evaluated? That is quite controversial, as you probably know.

    3) You said, “I would hold teachers accountable just like you might hold your children accountable — by their actions”. As an employer for 30 years, I would hold teachers accountable just like I held employees accountable, by the results of their efforts. I had the position to have differential compensation based on the employees production. I found early on that all employees are not the same and those with superior production deserved superior compensation.

    4) You said, “However, they (unions) don’t stifle accountability, they try to create systems which make sure their members are treated fairly”. I would disagree. It is my experience (I have belonged to three unions as an employee and had a union shop corporation) that unions are not so concerned that employees are treated “fairly” as they are concerned that all employees get treated/evaluated/compensated the same regardless of quality of productivity.

    5) You said, “Remember when the U.S. had the greatest education system in the world”. That was before education unions, correct?

    6) You said, “In the end I think where we differ is that I don’t believe measuring “accountability” in some specific way is a help, but a hindrance”. I think that is why your opinion is a minority opinion that is supported by the education unions of NEA and AFT and their local subsidiaries. School boards need to be able to quantitatively measure their employees, just as teachers need to quantitatively measure their students.

    Thank you for presenting your ideas.

  12. Steve Buel says:

    Kona,
    1) I was comparing parents and their children to teachers in the schools, not to the kids.
    2)Teachers are already evaluated by principals and vice principals. That is how it should be.
    3) Actions produce the results. Actions can be evaluated and viewed. Results in education not so much. Plus, the results in many business environments are pretty much a result of the actions of the employee. The results in education are much more dependent on a huge myriad of factors including predominately the work ethic and attitudes of the children in the class. Figure a way to take that out of the equation and you can hand me a system which might work. Thing is, you can’t.
    4)Teacher unions are not the same a most other unions. They respond a good deal differently.
    5)Unions have been around a long time. So no.
    6)Even if what you said is correct, the people supporting my opinion would be all the people on the front lines of education. The people who work day to day in schools, who really have a handle on what is going on in schools on a daily basis. Even if that was the only group it would be by far the most knowledgable and informed group.

  13. kona says:

    You seem to be a solid proponent of the status quo in Oregon K-12 education. That becomes a comfortable position if accountability is not measured, as you suggest. If Oregon K-12 educational trends were improving I could agree with your position.

    Are you against all quantitative measurements in education? You seem to suggest that measurement of student success (or failure) is insignificant.

    What is “improving education”? You said, “That is one reason I helped start Oregon Save Our Schools which works for improving eductaion instead of making it worse through the reform movement”.

    Is “improving education” just another “reform movement” from a different direction?

  14. Steve Buel says:

    I am not a proponent of the status quo because the status quo is high stakes testing and this obviously doesn’t work. I am a proponent of the old educational system which is built around solid programs, engaging kids in school, and a vibrant, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum. Then you combine this with solid early childhood programs and wraparound programs to help those children who don’t have the support at home they need.

    Measurement of student success or failure is practiced by every teacher I have ever known. It is not like teachers haven’t measured this for decades. But the idea that you can measure what goes on in an individual classroom with an individual student from someplace in Salem or Washington D.C. is ludicrous. And it makes teachers move away from real education (see above) and instead teach to the tests.

    Yes, \improving education\ is another improvement from a different direction — one which takes into account the needs of children and real education. Something the so-called reform movement does not do.

    One of the very big mistakes reformers make in railing against education is that they don’t seem to understand that their reforms are what we have been doing for the last decade plus (twenty years in Oregon). You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the education is bad and we need reforms when what made it so bad is the reforms from the reformers that now permeate and wreck our schools.

  15. kona says:

    Interesting.

    You said, “I am a proponent of the old educational system which is built around solid programs, engaging kids in school, and a vibrant, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum”.

    I am a product of the “old” educational system (depending on the precise definition). My feeling is that my children and grandchildren experienced (are experiencing) better opportunities in K-12 education than I did.

    I wish I could get a better understanding of what you are suggesting that was so good about the “old educational system” and the drawbacks of the “new” educational system. I apologize for not understanding this major difference that you refer.

  16. Steve Buel says:

    Kona, where did your kids go to school?? Was it in one of the big 4 schools in PPS — did they take advanced classes? Were they in private school? If the answer to any of these is “yes” then they probably got a better education. Because in the middle and upper income schools they have never quit teaching the old system because they don’t have to worry about the testing. However, if your kids went to schools in lower-socio-economic areaas, which I doubt, then you would know what I am talking about.

    No apology necessary. The old system taught a comprehensive education — the new reform system revolves around testing and teaches pretty much to the test leaving out to a huge degree such things as history, science, art, music, geography, government, and generally doesn’t have a librarian any more, but instead has an academic coach. Now keep in mind I am not talking about Lake Oswego, Lincoln, Riverdale, Sellwood etc. These schools don’t have to worry about the testing, and if they decide they do then they have pretty poor education now. I have a nephew in the 5th grade in Mollala and a niece in the 5th grade in Brownsville. Both are getting rotten educations which are built around testing. That is one thing that makes me upset with organizations such as Stand for Children and the Chalkboard. They build their plans from their experiences with well-to-do schools and then generalize to poor schools. Doesn’t work. And it is terribly discriminatory. They just don’t often have the backgrounds to get it.

  17. kona says:

    Thank you.

    You asked, “Kona, where did your kids go to school?? Was it in one of the big 4 schools in PPS — did they take advanced classes? Were they in private school?

    No, yes,no. But, advanced classes are not confined to “the big 4″ or private schools. They went to a very average Oregon high school and all three were prepared very well. All finished their undergraduate degrees in four years or less with very good grades.

    This takes me back to my first comment (above) about the NAEP scores, “This (NAEP scores) closely reflects changing demographics rather than negative changes in Oregon education, I believe. This will be ongoing as Oregon embraces low income demographic sectors”.

  18. Steve Buel says:

    Kona, If they took advanced classes then that segment of the school does get prepared well generally. It is the other segment of the school which has had weak education throughout their earlier years, centering on test scores and teaching to the test. Their education is incredibly weaker than it used to be.

    Yes, lower scored tends to reflect lower economic conditions over and over again. But it also reflects our responses to these conditions which has been to focus on testing instead of solid education.

  19. kona says:

    This plays directly into the Oregon K-12 education situation. The overriding factor is demographics and not a problem of testing (in my opinion).

    “A greater share of Oregonians depend on food stamps to get by than in any other state, U.S. Census data released Thursday show. Nearly 18 percent of the state’s residents said in a 2010 survey that they had relied on the federal program sometime in the previous 12 months.”

    “Oregon’s numbers jibe with other statistics showing a state that continues to suffer some of the worst effects of the recession. The charity Feeding America this year named Oregon the first in the nation for childhood hunger. From 2007 to 2010, 120,000 additional Oregonians fell below the poverty line, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, with 15.8 percent of the state’s residents counted among the poor.”

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/11/post_48.html

    Food stamp use in Oregon surged 23 percent last year, vaulting the state to first in the nation. In 2009, six other states had rates the same or higher than here.”

  20. Steve Buel says:

    Kona, you are absolutely correct about poverty being the huge educational problem. That is why I fervently support the wraparound programs like the ones being espoused by C2C. But the testing problem not only affects children in poverty, by guaranteeing them a weaker education, but also is carried throughout the entire state into small towns where in the past the education was pretty good. It no longer seems to be because of teaching to the test, an idea espoused by the reform movement and by the new ideas put forth in the Governor’s education agenda.

  21. Tricia says:

    This is troubling. If Kentucky can improve so much then why can’t Oregon. Oregon had low scores even when times were good. Don’t try to say the economy is bad and therefore kids are not be educated at the same level as other states. Kids are in school less full days, teachers have more planning days, there are more half days, more kids per class and less money is spent per kid then the states that top this list. These are the choices the state, union and even parents have made. Oregon would rather save the salmon then make the decisions needed to educate their kids like other states.

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