Oregon middle schools failed to help black students catch up in reading or math by 2012

90 percent of Oregon middle schools failed to help low-income or black students catch up in reading or math by 2012, state says

Betsy Hammond | betsyhammond@oregonian.com
By Betsy Hammond on April 30, 2014 at 11:27 AM, updated April 30, 2014 at 2:22 PM

The vast majority of Oregon middle schools failed to help low-income or black students improve their reading or math skills enough to get closer to the reading or math achievement of not-low-income or white students in their school by 2012, the state reported Wednesday.

Among 120 middle schools statewide with at least 20 low-income and 20 non-low-income students, just 9 schools, or 8 percent, helped their low-income students narrow the achievement gap separating them from economically better-off classmates in reading from 2005 to 2012, the state audit division found. Only 14 schools, or 12 percent, helped their low-income students begin to catch up in math, the state audit division reported.

Among the 10 Oregon middle schools that enrolled at least six black eighth-graders eight years in a row, none helped black students close the achievement gap separating them from non-low-income whites in reading and just one school helped black students begin to catch up in math, the state reported.

Those 10 schools were in Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro and four different school districts serving east Portland or suburbs just east of it.

That lack of progress across the vast majority of middle schools helps explain why Oregon’s Latino, African American and Native American students lag, on average, at least a full year behind white students who are not poor, in special education or learning English as a second language, the state said.

Almost no Oregon middle schools helped low-income or black eighth-graders begin to catch up to economically better-off students or white classmates from 2005 to 2012, the state found. Alice Ott Middle School in the David Douglas school district in east Portland was an exception. (Betsy Hammond / The Oregonian)




More middle schools helped their Latino students get closer to white non-low-income students in reading or math from 2005 to 2012, perhaps because Oregon’s Latino eighth-graders fared so poorly in 2005, with average reading scores two full years below grade level. Latino eighth-graders’ average reading scores caught up with those of Oregon’s African-American eighth-graders between 2007 and 2011, the report says.

Of the 43 Oregon middle schools with at least 20 Latino eighth-graders and 20 non-low-income white students enrolled each year, one-third managed to narrow the gap between the two in reading between 2005 and 2012 and one-third managed to narrow the gap in math, the state found.

The test score analysis was conducted by a team of auditors in the Oregon Secretary of State’s audit division. Their report, “Oregon Department of Education: Efforts to Close Achievement Gaps,” found that the department has put a high priority on closing those gaps and has taken or is taking steps to do more to call attention to and try to fix that problem.

The audit divisions’s analysis left out many schools that educate Oregon eighth-graders because it did not include schools that opened after 2004, schools that added grade 8 after that year or schools with fewer than six black eighth-graders or 20 low-income and 20 not-low-income eighth-graders.

In Portland Public Schools, for example, the study included only four middle schools, Beaumont, Hosford, Jackson and Mount Tabor, serving fewer than one-fourth of the district’s eighth-graders. The study left out all four Oregon schools that currently educate the most black eighth-graders: Self Enhancement Academy, a Portland charter school; Reynolds Middle; Ron Russell Middle in the David Douglas school district of east Portland; and George Middle in Portland. And it omitted three of Oregon’s 10 largest middle schools: Reynolds, Ron Russell and Lane Middle in Portland.

The report called out by name nine middle schools that did close at least one achievement gap during the time period covered by the study. They included Alice Ott Middle School in the David Douglas district, Ogden Middle School in Oregon City, Molalla River Middle School and Memorial Middle School in Albany.

The Oregonian has repeatedly highlighted successful practices at Alice Ott, led by Principal James Johnston, that help explain its consistently notable achievement levels. The school has a model approach to getting students to attend regularly, something that is a huge problem in Oregon.

Ogden Middle School, led by Principal Libby Miller, has only small gaps separating its low-income students from its non-low-income students in both reading and math, the study said. The way teachers collaborate to help each other be effective with all students helps explain successes at Ogden and other schools getting notable results for low-income students, the report said.

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