(Salem, Ore.) – Following two years of disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) released results from the Oregon Statewide Assessment System’s spring 2022 summative assessments. These results will be the baseline by which future progress will be measured and should call on us all to redouble our efforts to help our students thrive.
“The assessment results are a call to action for Oregon to keep advancing the programs we know meet our students’ needs,” ODE Director Colt Gill said. “As expected, the pandemic had an impact on learning in Oregon and across the country. Thanks to lawmakers passing the Student Success Act, and the agency’s implementation of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, additional mental health and wellbeing supports, summer learning and other crucial programs providing engaging instruction and boosting mental health have been implemented. We believe the framework is in place to be able to help Oregon’s students achieve. Oregon’s students of color, tribal citizens, students who experience disability, students navigating poverty and rural students were disproportionately impacted and investments to renew and accelerate learning need to focus on these communities. We stand with our districts as they move forward with the plans they created with local community input to address the needs they see in their schools.”
“Every student deserves the chance to graduate from school prepared for lifelong success,” said Governor Kate Brown. “As our schools, students and families continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, we must continue to accelerate state and federal investments in high-quality instruction and strategies that support academic success, student mental health and other student needs, with a particular focus on equity and helping the students who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
Purpose of Summative Assessments
State summative assessments are designed to identify differences in student group outcomes and help improve the education system over time. These assessments do not measure the breadth of academic learning of any individual student. They are limited to three academic subject areas. They do not name all the strengths, talents, gifts or needs of any individual. And, they do not describe the full context of what a school is providing socially or academically to students.
Statewide annual assessment results are one of several important measures of school performance and progress. These results are easily accessed and quantified and receive attention, in part, because they are easily communicated. Our schools also provide hot meals to nourish our children; warm hugs and high expectations from caring educators; counseling and support; access to support for students who find themselves houseless; hands-on career training and experiences; college credits at little or no cost; and clubs, sports and activities that offer connection and relevance for students. There is so much we are not able to measure on a state scale and all of it impacts our children’s success.
However, the results hold value by informing education planning and decision making in critical ways. The information from these assessments help evaluate academic programs across districts and schools and boost school districts’ ability to prioritize additional funds, resources and supports to the schools, educators and students who need them most.
State test results are most useful when participation thresholds are met, so participation is central to their role in helping improve outcomes for all of Oregon’s students. Any comparisons made with prior years’ data should be made with caution and focused on identifying strengths and accelerating student growth, not enacting deficit frames for Oregon’s schools.
Assessment data should be used constructively—to help inform parents and families about their students’ schools and to ensure schools receive the necessary resources to help support students. Oregon can make significant gains in outcomes through transparent, well-resourced and sustained efforts like the Student Success Act. As the Secretary of State’s Systemic Risk Report explained, previous efforts in Oregon have shown that short lived reforms, constant change, underfunded efforts and punitive measures do not help us tap into the strengths of our education professionals and school systems to reach our goals for student success. Coming out of the pandemic, we need to align, focus on system strengths and provide consistency for programs that meet the needs of all students.
Summative Assessment Results
The results are a snapshot in time and reflect how student groups performed in three content areas: English language arts (ELA), mathematics and science. The ELA and mathematics assessments are given in grades 3-8 plus 11th grade; science assessments are given in grades 5, 8 and 11. The table below shows the percentage of students who were proficient in Spring 2022. The term “proficient” refers to the achievement level that students achieve and whether they are on track to be college and career ready once they graduate from high school. Students are considered proficient if they are at Level 3 or Level 4 on the English language arts (ELA), mathematics or science assessments.
The high school results shared above should not be compared across schools or districts, nor with prior year results, unless those local areas had substantial participation rates in the time periods referenced (Oregon’s Technical Advisory Committee has recommended at least 80% participation to support systems level uses). The participation of students on Oregon’s high school assessments was too low to support typical comparisons or uses.
The results do include some bright spots around the state, with several districts supporting student academic growth during the pandemic in specific areas. For example, some districts with high participation rates saw substantial academic growth for all students, students experiencing disabilities, students experiencing mobility and students who are federally identified as American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African-American or Hispanic/Latino/a/x, in elementary mathematics between 2019 and 2022. Connecting with these districts, developing understanding of how they are supporting these outcomes and then sharing those practices with other like districts will drive continuous improvement.
These assessment results should serve as a continued call to action to accelerate investments like the Student Success Act, the High School Success program, equitable expenditure of the State School Fund and federal investments in high-quality instruction and other strategies that support academic acceleration, student mental health and other needs. These investments must support all students, but specifically target resources on students who have experienced the most disruption in their education and have the fewest opportunities for success. Everyone was impacted by this global pandemic, including our educator workforce. We must also invest to better support teachers, support staff and school leaders, including by bringing more diverse, highly qualified and caring adults into the education profession.
“While current generations in our country have not experienced learning disruptions on the scale of a global pandemic, previous generations have,” Gill said. “School has been significantly disrupted by disease, natural disaster, war and other events for people in this country and others throughout history. We are resilient, if nothing else. Our students will succeed. And our teachers, counselors, bus drivers and others will be there to ensure they do. We have already seen assessment scores rising for students who have had more time back in onsite learning. With the right support, caring educators and deep partnerships with families and community, our students will thrive.”