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The Oregon Department of Education has not brought back overall ratings for individual schools on the latest round of school and district report cards, made public this morning.

The ratings, based on a 1-5 scale, were last used in 2013-14. They were left off subsequent report cards, first because the state had changed assessment tests and then because Oregon began making the transition to new requirements under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act.

The state will release redesigned school and district report cards next fall to reflect the new ESSA requirements. The design is still in the works, with the goal "to provide more clear, relevant information for parents and the greater community about the whole education being offered at their schools," said Tricia Yates, ODE's director of communication. 

"We will have a multiple measures dashboard for people to use, as well as an at-a-glance version for parents, families and communities," she said.

The 2016-17 report cards released today do continue to include "like-school average" comparisons for scores on state math, English and science assessment tests, both for schools as a whole and for various student demographic categories.

Linn and Benton school districts reported mixed results when it came to similar districts. Most outperformed their counterparts at the high school level, but struggled at lower grades, particularly in English Language Arts.

Full results can be seen on the Oregon Department of Education's website, http://www.oregon.gov/ode/schools-and-districts/reportcards/reportcards/Pages/default.aspx.

The 2016-17 report cards continue to offer a wide variety of information, including dropout rates, graduation totals, the percentage of freshmen on track for a four-year diploma and the demographic breakdowns of each school.

The numbers provide some context about recent changes in state testing methods but don't necessarily reflect all mitigating factors. For instance, most mid-valley four-year graduation rates rose on this most recent report — which, unlike the rest of the data, lists only 2015-16 figures* — but up until that year, those same schools had been encouraging students to put off receiving their diplomas so they could participate in a fifth-year college program, which has now ended.

Some low figures may not represent the whole story, either, said Brian Gardner, superintendent of the Central Linn School District. 

At Central Linn High School, only 52.9 percent of last year's freshmen were considered "on track" to graduate in four years, according to the district's report card.

But until this year, all students studied math and Humanities — a combination of English and social studies — through individually-paced labs, moving on to new material only after they had mastered a standard. That means freshmen scores may not be measured as "on track," depending on when they're taken.

The district added some teacher-led math classes this year, which has become an option for about 40 percent of the high school, in Gardner's estimate. But the overall philosophy is still to focus on individual student needs, which means official scores may remain low.

"We’re going to tweak some things around the edges, but the general principal of, 'Students go on to the next thing when they've mastered what they’re working on' is not going to change," he said.

Gardner said he objects to the idea that students should be able to master any particular standard based solely on a calendar. It would be as if, he said, an assembly-line employee were charged with putting tires on a car because it was Tire Day, regardless of whether anyone had first attached wheels.

"We're just trying to pause long enough to make sure we’ve got wheels before we're putting on tires," he said, adding: "If it takes a kid five years to get through high school, it’s not the end of the world. As long as they get through."

* Editor's note: This story has been corrected from the print version, which listed the incorrect date for the most recent figures associated with four-year graduation rates.

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