Math scores have slipped for many Jackson County schools, according to this year’s state tests, but reading and writing have improved. - Bob Pennell illustration

Schools receive mixed report card

Math scores slipped for a majority of Jackson County schools, but reading and writing improved, according to the latest round of academic performance results released by the Oregon Department of Education Monday.

Of the 56 different grade groups tested in math at eight school districts in Jackson County, 36 had declines in the 2006-07 school year compared with the previous year's scores.

In reading, 33 of the 56 grade groups tested at eight school districts boosted their scores over the same period. Writing performance improved in 13 of the 24 grade groups tested in the districts.

Jackson County's mixed results mirrored those statewide, where math scores dipped and reading and writing posted gains or stayed about the same.

In both math and reading, tests were given to grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. For writing, grades 4, 7 and 10 were tested.

Because of a legal dispute with a vendor, the Oregon Department of Education returned to paper and pencil tests rather than testing on computers.

"This is a hard year to comment on," said Samantha Steele, director of education for Central Point schools. "Going to paper and pencil threw a wrench into everything."

She said the new test was shorter, averaging about 25 to 30 questions per subject versus 60 under the old system.

The Department of Education ran the 2005-06 tests by computer but had to adjust the results to make them comparable to the new paper and pencil test. The results will be used to determine how well schools have done under guidelines set by the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act.

"I don't think the percentages are comparable," said Steele.

Central Point schools improved overall in both reading and writing, but slipped slightly in math in some grades under the scores released by the Department of Education.

Steele said that overall the district did well, especially considering that it switched to a small schools program at Crater High School and also is going through a schoolwide improvement program in the elementary grades.

But she said the district still has room for growth.

"Until we have 100 percent of students meet the benchmarks, we will need to look at what we can do for every student," she said.

Medford schools saw a decline in math scores in grades 3 through 7, but increases in grades 8 and 10. Grades 3, 5 and 6 had a slight dip in scores for reading. In writing, grades four and five posted a small drop.

"There's nothing super severe anywhere," said Todd Bloomquist, curriculum and assessment director for Medford schools.

He said the math scores reflect a problem that schools are having throughout the country and will require a shift in teaching methods.

"We will become more focused on a particular area of math," he said.

Bloomquist said the schools will also reach out to parents, who can help stimulate their children to study the subjects. He suggested parents allow the children to teach them the math skills they have learned as a way to reinforce what they have learned in the classroom.

"Make your kid the teacher," he said. "Education is a whole participation between the home, the school and the kids."

Prospect schools bucked the trend, improving math performance in every grade except grade 8.

"Overall with the test scores, we were very pleased," said Principal Wayne Gallagher.

He said the district received a state grant that paid for staff development and helped boost the math scores.

"When schools are adequately funded we can perform at a higher level," he said.

Students at Prospect didn't do as well on reading or writing, but Gallagher said the district will put more emphasis on reinforcing those skills.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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