'Many of those students are now counted as having taken the test and scored zero'
EUGENE, Ore. - State education officials released school report card data on time instead of delaying until November.
The reports provide a snapshot of how individual schools and districts stack up in terms of graduation rates and test scores.
But local school officials caution that some of the data could easily be confused.
For example, under the state's Smarter Balanced testing system, Eugene 4J School District students did not meet state minimum levels in English language arts and math skills.
But district spokeswoman Kerry Delf blames much of that on a new way the federal government is interpreting the scores.
The 2017 Oregon legislature passed a law allowing students to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test.
Delf said 4J has a high percentage of opt outs.
But how the federal government accounts for that non-pariticipation doesn't reflect well on the district.
"Many of those students are now counted as having taken the test," she explained, "and scored zero."
So the feds are flunking the students who opted out.
Delf points to the math scores at South Eugene High School as an example.
"Of the students who participated, 70.5 percent of the students were proficient," she said, "but it's being reported as 47.6 percent. Now that's a change in calculation, but if it's not clear to people, it could be very misleading."
Down the road in Lowell, Superintendent Johnie Matthews said the jury's out on the revised Smarter Balanced tests.
"Is it the right tool? I don't know," Matthews said, "but it is a tool that we need, and they tell us we need it, for accountability."
Matthews said Lowell students are persuaded to take these tests seriously.
"We're not going to shy away from it and be scared about it," he said. "There needs to be a tool of accountability to see what the kids do and how well they perform."
And with 89 percent of Lowell High School students on track to graduate in 4 years, Matthews said the class of 2019 is in great shape.
"I think all 38 seniors are on track for graduation, at this point, which is phenomenal," he said.
Oregon's average benchmark for students graduating on time is 77 percent.