By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

By 11th grade, Brookings-Harbor students lag behind state averages in language arts, math and science, state reports show.

According to State Department of Education data based on state Smarter Balanced tests, Brookings-Harbor School District (BHSD) facilitates growth in language arts from eighth through 11th grade but scores decline in math and science.

Many of the district’s high school students completed work samples showing they possess the abilities needed for graduation as opposed to passing state tests meant to show competence in the same areas.

Superintendent Sean Gallagher said the district is addressing low test scores by better aligning the curriculum to the Common Core goals supporting the tests.

“The district is also motivating students with high graduation rates and dual-enrollment courses,” he said.

Gallagher said a culture wherein everyone expects to graduate generates success across all academic disciplines.

The BHSD graduation rate is increasing and beating state norms at 77 percent, according to state reports.

Dual-enrollment classes offer high school and college credits simultaneously. The district offers dual-enrollment through Southwestern Oregon Community College, Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

State reports show district scores in science exhibited little growth from fifth to eighth grade before dropping through high school. Student passing rates hover around 68 percent in fifth and eighth grade, beating state averages, but only 35 percent of high school juniors meet state standards in science.

Gallagher attributed this slide to 11th graders being unfamiliar with the science test.

“This is the first time we’ve given the Smarter Balanced test in science. The older kids haven’t seen it, and it’s a one-time shot,” he said.

Gallagher said reading and math scores would lift science scores as student ability grows within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Career Technical Education (CTE) aligned curriculum and as students become familiar with the test.

The district wants to expand STEM and CTE courses, especially those taught with colleges and universities.

“I’d say where the big growth has been is in the applied sciences, the STEM and CTE,” public information officer Nancy Raskauskas-Coons said. “Students who took even one CTE class had a higher graduation rate, and those who were ‘concentrators,’ those who participated in multiple CTE classes, blew the other graduation rates out of the water.”

Azalea Middle School Principal Nicole Medrano said they adopted a new science curriculum this year that is aligned to the Next Generation Standards and the Smarter Balanced tests.

In math, elementary students meeting state standards stand at 36 percent before dropping to 30 percent in middle school and plummeting to 18.4 percent in 11th grade.

According to Gallagher, a new math curriculum at the high school should improve math scores.

“State standards changed to Common Core a few years ago,” he said. “But the new curriculum and professional development that helps math teachers standardize their language and concepts will begin to turn math scores.”

Kalmiopsis Elementary Principal Helena Chirinian said her students have succeeded with Math Studio, used with Teachers Development Group, and with the implementation of a new math curriculum called Investigations.

Coons said the middle school aims to increase scores using a suite of software from Renaissance for a variety of teaching and rapid assessment tools including accelerated math, accelerated reading, and several Star 360 tests (Star Reading, Star Math and Star Early Literacy).

While the district fails to match state or like-district averages in any of the three disciplines, language arts, with 62.3 percent of students meeting the standard, comes closest, and language arts scores increase throughout a student’s career.

The statewide average and like-district averages are 71.1 and 73.7 percent, respectively.

According to Chirinian, Kalmiopsis’ language arts scores are bolstered by Response to Intervention programs supporting core instruction and reading interventions.

In Response to Intervention, teachers use test scores and other measures of progress to choose an intervention to help the child.

Gallagher said Title 1 funds are also used at the elementary school to help with reading.

The middle school has adopted a new language arts curriculum so all three grade levels are aligned with the same curriculum, Medrano said.

She added the middle school has been using a new on-line diagnostic tool so teachers can target specific skills.

Teachers then differentiate lessons to provide additional support to students or assign on-line worksheets they can do in the library or computer lab, she said.

The high school has added an after-school program and summer school to keep students on track to earn credits and graduate, according to Gallagher.

They also offer a credit recovery program, he said.

One issue Gallagher cited as an ongoing problem in Brookings-Harbor is teacher retention, although figures were unavailable.

Coons said, “Before this contract, our district didn’t have a differential in pay between a master’s degree in teaching and a bachelor’s in teaching. So, if you are looking at how we can compete with other districts across the state, that’s an incentive to hire and retain quality teachers.”

She also said the district will send representatives to teacher job fairs throughout the state.

“The representatives will often do interviews or pre-interviews on the spot, in addition to sharing information about our school district, current openings and the community,” Coons said.

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