Annual 'At-A-Glance' school report cards reveal students struggling to graduate
Oregon’s 'At-A-Glance' school and district report cards have been released by the Oregon Department of Education.
The annual publication required by law is designed to inform parents, caregivers, communities and educators. It is also designed to initiate discussions on areas of improvement for schools and districts, according to the ODE.
The data shows schools across the Mid-Valley are struggling to help students graduate within four years, and that's exacerbated for Latino students and students struggling with homelessness.
ODE warned that due to the pandemic-related impact on in-person learning, the data looks different this year. Similar to 2019-2020’s report, this year’s profiles do not include statewide assessments data, class size data or attendance data.
“We all know that we went through and we are in the midst of a global pandemic and due to that pandemic we’ve had an impact on in-person instruction with a lot of the state moving to conference distance learning for much of the year,” Jon Wiens, director of Accountability and Reporting at ODE, said. “So there’s a lot of cautions with the data that we have this year.”
Losing students, adding staff
There were 38,809 students enrolled in Salem-Keizer Public Schools last school year, according to this year’s report. Student enrollment was at 41,770 the prior year.
During the pandemic, the Salem-Keizer school district gained 15 new teachers. Of its 2,042 teachers in 2020-2021, 80% were classified as “experienced teachers,” up from last year’s 78%. ODE defines experienced teachers as licensed teachers with more than three years of experience.
The district also added three counselors/psychologists for a total of 122 in the district but lost educational assistants, decreasing from 1,114 to 1,092.
Progress toward graduation
Statewide, progress to keep students on track to earn their diploma within four years dropped compared to the 2018-2019 school year, the last year ODE has reliable data.
In 2020-2021, ODE saw a "big decrease," Wiens said, with the rate of students on track dropping 11% to 74%.
The Salem-Keizer district was above the state average in 2018 at 87% but this year fell below it, reporting that 70% of students earned a quarter of required graduation credits by the end of ninth grade.
- Roberts High School, which provides nontraditional programs to students, had fewer than 5% of students on track to graduate within four years.
- North Salem High, 57% on track to graduate.
- Early College High, which focuses on offering college credits as part of its program, 95% on track.
- McKay High School, 62% on track.
- McNary High School, 77% on track.
- South Salem High School, 74% on track.
- Sprague High School, 74% on track.
- West Salem High School, 81% on track.
In the Woodburn School District, students were further below the state average this year compared to the Salem-Keizer district, with 65% of 5,391 students on track to graduate in time.
- At the Wellness Business and Sports School, 79% of students were on track.
- Woodburn Academy of Art Science and Technology, 65% on track.
- Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy, 54% on track.
In the Silver Falls School District, Silverton High students hit the state 74% average.
Polk County's Central School District reported that 46% of their students at their only high school, Central High School, had completed a quarter of their credits before their freshman year.
Varied results for students of color
In Salem-Keizer, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and students struggling with homelessness — included in the report for the first time — were the student groups with the lowest percentage of students on track to graduate, both 39%, followed by migrant students (51%), Hispanic/Latino (61%) and American Indian/Alaska Native students (65%).
Compared to the previous report, percentages dropped for migrant students from 68% and American Indian/Alaska Native students from 70%.
Black, Asian and white students in the district were all above the Oregon average at 82%, 87% and 80% respectively.
The percentages are a decrease among white and Asian students but an increase of 12% among Black students.
Wiens warned, however, of comparing data to previous years.
“A lot of our data was either severely impacted or it’s a different definition this year so comparison to prior years is not warranted," he said. "We expect these comparisons to slowly return in the future as our data stabilizes.”
Attendance not included
Distance learning also continued to bring significant changes to the definition of attendance in Oregon schools.
“Remote learning, especially for online schools, used to have attendance on twice-weekly check-ins with a student. Last year, with the move to comprehensive distance learning, we required daily attendance for students in remote learning,” Wiens said.
ODE mirrored the daily attendance required from in-person learning, moving to daily attendance for remote learning. Additionally, the “very definition of what attendance meant” was different last year, becoming much broader to allow for teacher check-ins or other forms of engagement by the student to be marked present.
Under ODE guidelines, attendance included participation in class activities and interaction with a teacher during a school day either by participating in a video class, communicating with the teacher through text, email or on a phone call, or turning in completed coursework.
Because of the changes, attendance data was not included in this year’s report. Instead, “regular attenders” data will be reported separately from the district profiles and available on a separate website.
Of the 37,585 students included in the separate report about attendance, 38.4% were chronically absent in the Salem-Keizer school district. A higher percentage of students of color were chronically absent, according to the data: 40.6% of Black students, 46% of Hispanic/Latino students, 49.6% American Indian/Alaska Native students and 62.1% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Students experiencing homelessness in the district were also included in this data for the first time. According to the report, 72.2% of the district’s homeless (361 students) were chronically absent during the school year.
Parents wanting information about attendance and class sizes will be able to view that data on a separate webpage linked on the ODE reports.
“We are not putting it on our At A Glance profiles because it doesn’t mean what people normally think of class size being. Class size for most of our stakeholders would reflect the notion of how many students are physically in the classroom. But with a lot of the state under remote learning and or hybrid learning, that notion is just not the same this year,” Wiens said.
Low state assessment
Information about standardized testing was missing from last year’s report, prompted by COVID-19 closures.
Those testing results will be missing from the annual report cards once again after low participation rates in statewide assessments.
Usually, results from standardized testing are used as a way to track how well students are learning.
“The results of those assessments should not be compared across years, across schools or across students. And because of all of the cautions we have around that data, we’re reporting that separately and not on the At a Glance profiles,” Wiens said.
Links to the website containing available information about state assessment will also be available on the At A Glance reports.
In Oregon, the state received a waiver to reduce the required grades for testing in 2020-21. With ongoing limited in-person instruction and concerns about impacts on families, ODE did not support remote administration of statewide assessments. Those assessments were required to be administered at a school testing site.
"Many districts prioritized instruction over test administration," Wiens said.
This, in addition to parent opt-outs, led to very low participation typically in the 30% range for required assessments and even lower for the optional ones. In previous years, participation is usually 94-95%, according to ODE.
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In the Salem-Keizer district, few students tested in most grades or student groups shown. Data was only available for some students in Grade 3 who participated in English Language Arts assessments and one student group for the same subject in Grade 6.
Only 0.6 percent of students in the district from Grade 3 participated, according to the data.
"We emphasize that when participation rates are low, especially if they're below 80%, we really should not use that data to compare across years, across schools or even across student groups within a school," Wiens said. "Assessment data is valid and reliable when we have high participation rates."
For more information about this year's report, visit the ODE website.