Tests show Oregon students faltering on basics

The results of Oregon's standardized tests tumbled this year, and were down markedly in high school writing.

State education leaders blamed the poor performance on budget cuts that have resulted in fewer school days and larger classes, and on limiting the number of test do-overs, The Oregonian reported.

In high school writing, the share of juniors who could write an acceptable essay dropped to 60 percent, down 7 percentage points from the previous year.

Those students, now seniors, are members of the second class in Oregon that must pass the writing test or an equivalent to earn a diploma.

The test asks students to choose from four topics and write up to 850 words with solid content and ideas, organization, sentence fluency and conventions such as grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Among other outcomes of the testing:

  • Reading performance dropped in every grade from third through eighth.
  • Passing rates in mathematics fell in five of seven grades tested, including 3 points in third grade and 2 points in seventh grade.

One bright spot was a 3 percentage point increase in high school math, bringing the passing rate to 69 percent, a record. This year's seniors will be the first required to pass the state math test, along with tests in reading and writing, to get a diploma.

Ashland students outperformed state averages in every subject at every grade level.

Oregon schools chief Rob Saxton said the broad decline in passing rates may primarily reflect that students took state tests fewer times, not that schools taught them less. But he conceded that "overall the outcomes are disappointing."

Students were limited to one retake on the multiple-choice reading, math and science tests if they failed, down from the two retakes that had been allowed for years. Juniors took the writing test only once. Past classes could try it sophomore year and retake it junior year.

"The more opportunities you have to take an assessment, the more likely you are to be able to pass it, especially if you are in the vicinity of being able to pass," Saxton said.

— Associated Press

Information from The Oregonian, www.oregonlive.com

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