Annual report: Jackson County school ratings drop

Eleven Jackson County schools' ratings fell last year from strong or exceptional, and only four county schools improved their ratings, according to the annual school report cards released Tuesday.

Prospect School, Talent Elementary, Orchard Hill Elementary in Medford and Sam's Valley Elementary in the Central Point district improved their marks from last year.

The ratings fell for Ashland Middle School and Walker Elementary in Ashland; Hanby Middle School in Gold Hill; Scenic Middle School in Central Point; Lake Creek Elementary in the Eagle Point district; White Mountain Middle School in White City; Jefferson Elementary, McLoughlin Middle School and Washington Elementary, all in Medford; Talent Middle School and Rogue River High School. All were in the satisfactory range.

The state education department calculates the report cards based on students' performance on state academic assessments, attendance, dropout rates, improvement in scores and attendance, and participation on the state assessments. Schools receive one of five ratings: exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low or unacceptable.

Class size, high school SAT scores, student expulsions due to weapons, and teacher education and experience are also featured in the report cards.

Statewide, the number of exceptional schools declined from 157 in 2006-07 to 129, and the number of strong schools fell from 457 to 414.

In Jackson County, Hoover Elementary in Medford was the lone campus rated exceptional; 17 schools received strong ratings, 33 were satisfactory, and 11 weren't rated because of insufficient data, including Crater High School's new academies.

Armadillo Technical High School in Phoenix-Talent was the only Jackson County school to rank as unacceptable.

This is the 10th year the state has issued the report cards. The practice began in 1999 to help keep parents and the community informed about school performance.

Prospect, a Jackson County school of 167 pupils in grades kindergarten through 12, boosted its rating from satisfactory to strong with an increase in test scores and in the graduation rate.

Two years ago, the small rural school received a $180,000 grant to provide teachers and administrators with professional development from Washington, D.C.-based America's Choice, which has researched best educational practices from around the world. The school received an additional $160,000 for a second year.

"School improvement isn't any secret," said Prospect schools Superintendent Don Alexander. "It's setting standards and getting students to meet them. It's administrators in rooms, and teachers talking to each other."

"Other schools are doing the same things," Alexander added. "We are luckier mostly because we are a little smaller."

Next year, the report cards will change to give more weight to continuous improvement in scores, attendance and graduation, state officials said. Instead of exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low or unacceptable, schools will be rated as outstanding, satisfactory or in need of improvement.

State interventions will be provided to schools in need of improvement, including technical support in developing and implementing a school improvement plan.

The ratings are on the education department's Web site:

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