Smarter Balanced test scores fell from the previous year for nearly every grade and subject, according to 2016-17 Oregon results released Thursday.
Smarter Balanced assesses students’ progress on Common Core standards and the likelihood students will graduate high school ready for college or a career. Students take the tests in grades 3-8 and 11, and it is graded on a 1-4 scale, with 4 being the highest.
According to the report, 54 percent of students taking Smarter Balanced scored a 3 or 4 in English language arts and 41 percent met that standard in mathematics. Both scores are down 1 percentage point from the previous year. In science, 61 percent met the standard, down 2 percentage points. The science tests still use the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS), which Smarter Balanced replaced in math and English three years ago.
In English and science, all grades scored the same or worse, with fifth-grade English language arts taking the biggest dip at 4 percentage points. In math, grade 6 moved up 1 percentage point to 40 percent and grade 11 ticked up 1 percentage point to 34 percent. All other grades fell 1 or 2 percentage points.
All categories of students did the same or worse on the tests with the exception of English language learners, which went up 2 percentage points in English and math. Jon Wiens, director of accountability and reporting for the Oregon Department of Education, said that could be explained by a change in who is counted as an English language learner. The category was broadened to include more students.
The data are broken down by schools, grade levels, groups of students and subjects, giving districts lots of ways to parse the information.
Lake Oswego School District is one of the highest performers. Christine Moses, communications executive director, says the district uses the data for planning.
“We are really focused on ensuring every kid gets all the services and all the experiences they deserve,” she said.
Sherwood School District, a top performer that showed a slight uptick in English and math, echoed that philosophy.
“We strive to know our students as individuals and give them a sense of belonging and a network of caring adults who have their best interest in mind,” said Patrick Shuckerow, the district’s instruction and data coordinator. “Sherwood uses state assessment result as an important piece of the puzzle in helping us understand the success of our students and the effectiveness of our educational system.”
Smarter Balanced asks students to write, reason, think critically and solve multi-step problems. ODE and districts use the tests to look at overall student achievement and post-graduation readiness as well as opportunity gaps.
Some parents have resisted the tests, and the 2015 Legislature made it possible for families to opt out of testing last year without stating a reason.
Participation dropped or stayed the same in all student groups, subjects and grades, except 11th-grade science, which went up 1 percentage point to 79 percent. The federal target is 95 percent participation. On average, 95 percent of Oregon students took the English tests, 94 percent took the math tests and 88 percent took the science tests.
The Every Student Succeeds Act allows states greater flexibility in their school assessments, and ODE is looking at replacing Smarter Balanced at the high school level.