PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The state released its redesigned report cards on Thursday for Oregon's public schools and districts, with the new 5-tier rating system placing more emphasis on student gains rather than meeting specific scores.
The vast majority of schools were rated Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4. The state gave 114 schools a Level 5 rating — the top grade.
Sixty schools with nearly 15,000 students got the rock-bottom Level 1 rating. More than half were alternative high schools that serve students already off-track for graduation, or schools that serve teens and young adults in youth prisons.
The cards replaces the old designations of "in need of improvement," ''satisfactory" or "outstanding." The reports also track more information on student performance, school curricula and college readiness. Each card includes a separate rating that compares a school with others with similar student demographics.
State officials said they tried to design a system that rewards schools that help all students improve, not just give good grades to those with high passing rates on state tests. Such schools often have fewer poor, minority and English as a second-language students.
The education system is changing, so the report cards needed to change to "better tell our schools' stories," said Rob Saxton, deputy superintendent of state schools.
Elementary and middle school ratings are now based 75 percent on student gains on state tests and 25 percent on passing rates. High school ratings are based 50 percent on graduation rates, 30 percent on student gains and just 20 percent on how many students pass state tests.
One of the schools with a Level 1 rating is Alder Elementary in the Reynolds district, where nearly all the students are poor and two-thirds speak English as a second language. Only 30 percent passed state reading and math tests, and the typical Alder student's year-to-year academic growth was smaller than at 95 percent of Oregon elementary schools.
The district, which already considered Alder's performance unacceptable, has made major changes over the past year. Those include dismissing the principal, shrinking school boundaries to end overcrowding, and making improved literacy instruction at Alder an "obsession" this year, said Chris Russo, Reynolds' chief academic officer.
"I can say with confidence it's going to pay off this year," Russo told The Oregonian newspaper.
The report cards show that girls continuing to outperform boys in nearly all academic categories.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.