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home : education : schools March 26, 2015

9/17/2013 12:48:00 PM
Sisters handily beats state averages
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Sisters students did far better than the state average on mandatory state tests last year. Results were issued by the Oregon Department of Education on September 12.

Statewide, the results were considered very disappointing. The Oregonian did not mince words: "Oregon schools bombed state tests this year, with a significant drop in the passing rate in at least one subject at every grade-level tested," the paper reported on September 12 (see related story, page 18).

One glaring area of deficiency was in high school writing, where the percentage of juniors who could write an acceptable essay dropped to 60 percent, down seven points from the previous year. In Sisters, however, 78 percent of 11th-graders met or exceeded state standards in writing.

Sisters students handily beat state averages in every category - math, reading, writing and science.

Bob Collins, president of the Sisters Science Club, was particularly gratified to see strong science scores. Sisters third-graders aced the tests with a 94 percent met-or-exceeded rate, compared to a 67 percent statewide average and a 63 percent average in the rest of Central Oregon. Eighth-graders recorded 88 percent and 11th-graders 81 percent, again blowing out state averages in the 60s.

"Compared to other Central Oregon schools and the state average, the Sisters School District is leading them all in math, reading and especially science," Collins noted in a club newsletter. "We've got outstanding teachers!"

Superintendent Jim Golden was also particularly pleased with the science scores.

"I'm generally happy with our test scores," he said. "I'm particularly happy with our science scores because they went up in all areas."

In math, Sisters schools beat state averages, but by narrower margins than in other subject areas. Sixth- and seventh-graders recorded 66 percent while the state average is 59 and 63 percent respectively. Seventy-two percent of high school students met or exceeded standards compared to a state average of 69 percent. ODE notes that math standards were raised "in a move to prepare students for the increased rigors of the new Common Core State Standards and the Oregon Diploma."

Sisters reading scores were consistently significantly higher than the state average, with 81 percent of third-graders and 93 percent of fourth-graders meeting or exceeding standards compared to state marks of 66 and 73 percent. Sisters' sixth-graders dipped to 75 percent, but still exceed the state mark of 63 by 12 points.

Eighty-five percent of high-schoolers meet the standard statewide, while in Sisters the mark is 94 percent.

Exceeding statewide averages is gratifying, but Superintendent Golden acknowledges that, given its small size and socio-economic advantages, Sisters should well exceed statewide performance.

However, Golden reported that he is compiling comparisons with districts that are similar in makeup to Sisters and finding that Sisters performs well against comparable districts.

"In general we do better than anybody but Riverdale," he said.

Riverdale, which enrolls approximately 550 students just south of Portland is regarded as the third-richest public school system in the nation.

Golden said Sisters educators do not intend to rest on the laurels of solid test scores. He recognizes that a community that has funded a local option tax expects good results.

"We're never done," he said. "It's always constant improvement. We shouldn't be happy; we shouldn't be complacent, because we have to get better."

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