The 2020-2021 school year has been complicated due to the effect of COVID-19 on education, effects that have been clearly shown even in the most typical state data.
The Oregon Department of Education released its “At-A-Glance” district profiles Thursday morning, as it does every year. However, this year’s profiles show some notable differences from previous years, especially in what they lack.
These district profiles were previously called “achievement tickets”: they display demographic information about districts and individual schools, including enrollment counts, racial and ethnic makeup of students and staff, number of students enjoying a free and discounted lunch, and Suite. The profiles also show how many staff each district has in certain specialties such as librarians and psychologists.
This year’s report cards still contain useful performance-based data for state and districts as they move forward – like the rate of students who were on track to graduate on time last year. – but there are some important data points that people may notice missing from previous years.
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Two major items omitted from this year’s district profiles are regular attendees and proficiency in language arts, math, and science. ODE executives said they chose to split these two data in their own reports rather than including them in the profiles because the data limitations were so different from previous years that they couldn’t be compared without this context. .
The state tracked regular students differently last year to account for blended learning during the pandemic. “Regular attendees” are students who attend more than 90% of school days in the year. That definition hasn’t changed, ODE leaders said, but what the state counted as attendance has. In normal years, students had to be physically in class to be counted. Since this couldn’t happen last year in distance education, as long as students checked in with a teacher, turned in their homework, or logged in to work within 24 hours, they were counted as attending this. that day.
“It’s a completely different definition, so not really comparable to previous years,” ODE director Colt Gill said in an interview with The Register-Guard. “But it’s comparable within school among students, and I think schools can use that data in certain ways, especially if there comes a time when we go back to an online system. that it won’t happen, but if it does happen in the future, there are lessons to be learned here. “
In the 2020-2021 school year, Bethel School District had the highest rate of regular attendance at 79.4% of students, with 1,031 students chronically absent. The Eugene school district was next with 72.5% and 4,415 chronically absent. Springfield had the lowest, with 68.6% and 2,934 chronically absent students.
Participation in state tests was extremely low for similar reasons. The state requested and received a partial waiver of state testing from the Federal Ministry of Education last spring. Many students in the state spent less than 20 days in a school building last year after returning to blended learning in the spring, spending half of their days learning at home. The ODE and local districts agreed that bypassing standardized testing would not be the best use of limited student or teacher days in class, which is why the state requested the waiver.
Many more families than usual also withdrew from all testing, leading to limited data that could not show schools’ true proficiency levels among students in these subjects.
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“Participation rates were generally in the range of 30% for required assessments and much lower for optional (tests),” said Jon Wiens, ODE’s director of accountability and reporting. Statewide turnout rates are generally much higher, at around 95%, he said.
However, the low participation in the tests and the subsequent limitations of this data is not a major concern for the state.
“While having just one year of low turnout, or even two in a row, is a challenge, it’s not the end of the world as (schools) need to look at this data over a period of time and see how it has an impact on the students, ”said Gill. “So it’s not something that, oh, there are decisions that can’t be made right now, this school year. It’s something that, over the next three to five years, they’ll will look back and remember that there was this gap here where we were before the pandemic and then come out of the pandemic.
“When we see our participation rates go up… it will teach us a lot at the school and district level and it will teach us a lot at the state level,” he said.
Pandemic fuels need for credit recovery
One insightful piece of data tied to student grades last year is the ninth grade on track metric. Students are considered to be on track to graduate on time if they have obtained at least a quarter of their required graduation credits in their first year of high school, according to the ODE. .
Over the past year, there has been a significant drop in the number of students completing all of their required first year courses on time.
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“We saw a 12 percentage point decrease in ninth grade on track at the state level,” said Gill. “It’s going to be different for every district and every high school, but at the state level it’s a pretty big change.”
Districts have already prioritized credit clawback options over the past two summers due to some students needing more time or help. Federal and state resources have been dedicated to these efforts: Gill pointed out the High School Success Act of Oregon, enacted in 2016, which has helped fund ninth-grade success coaches and graduation coaches for help students stay on track.
He said there are many reasons why this year may have been affected in particular – being a transition year is one of them.
“It’s always a tough year for students moving from eighth to ninth grade, and they are learning the importance of credits and there is a lot of interaction with their counselors and with full professors to help give a sense to it all, ”said Gill. “Last year it all had to be done online, and this was the first ninth grade to have to do it. “
What data shows in Eugene, Springfield schools
Local districts also experienced a drop in their on-track measurements in ninth grade compared to pre-pandemic times as well as at the state level.
In the 2020-2021 school year, the Eugene and Springfield area school districts saw a six to seven percentage point drop in their ninth grade on track from the 2018 school year- 2019. This was not included in the adapted profiles for the year 2019-2020.
Last school year, 82% of Eugene’s ninth grade students completed all of their credits on time. This compares to 89% for the 2018-2019 school year.
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Springfield also saw a 7% drop, dropping to 72% of first-year track students in 2020-21.
Bethel’s drop was smaller than the other two, but still significant – from 85% in 2018-19 to 79% last school year.
“Prior to the pandemic, Bethel District had made steady progress in ensuring that our Grade 9 students are on track to graduate,” Bethel spokeswoman Alisha Dodds said in a statement. -mail.
Dodds said the district offers additional credit recovery opportunities during the school day, stronger summer programming, and proactive communication with students and families on graduation requirements.
The district is also working to expand its evening school program, she said.
Contact reporter Jordyn Brown at [email protected] or 541-246-4264, and follow her on Twitter @thejordynbrown and Instagram @registerguard. Support local journalism, subscribe to The Register-Guard.