Small schools in Umatilla and Morrow counties saw some of the benefits of a smaller enrollment, which in many cases help in meeting the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The Pilot Rock School District knows being a small district has its benefits.
The two-school district met federal standards for the Adequate Yearly Progress Report in both its elementary and high schools.
"I think that it's great that there is a recognized standard," said Pilot Rock Superintendent Gordon Munck. "But the bigger schools get hammered. Just because the little schools are meeting the standard does not necessarily mean that they are doing better at all."
Larger schools take scores from a much larger pool of students, which means there is more opportunity for the school to "fail" in any single category as deemed by President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Failing in a single category means a district "fails" entirely, thus receiving a "not met" designation.
Munck said schools not meeting the federal benchmarks over consecutive years is forced to hire outside consultants to revamp its academic program and reduce the number of teachers in order to pay for those consultants, which can lead to overcrowded classrooms.
"Our money is already stretched very thin," Munck said.
The Echo School District also knows the benefits of being a small school when it comes to AYP testing. The district met the AYP standards.
"Small schools have the advantage because they don't have enough students in some areas to take the test to count for the state," Superintendent Rob Waite said, noting federal guidelines under the NCLBA that require a school to have a certain number of students testing in order to qualify for a certain category.
Waite attributes his students' success to the quality of teaching at both Echo Elementary and High School.
"We have some excellent, excellent teachers here at Echo," Waite said.
Stanfield's elementary and high schools also passed the AYP standards. How did they do it?
"The No Child Left Behind Act makes sure that we look at the students as individuals," said Stanfield Elementary Principal Mike Scott.
"The categories are so broad, so we have to go to a greater depth. The stakes have definitely gone up."
Scott's advice to parents: "Find out where (your child's) school didn't meet and why.
The school could have missed one area by 0.1 percent. Schools saying 'we failed' is not true."
The Umatilla School District failed the to meet AYP.
"It's disappointing," Umatilla Superintendent Brian Say said. "We knew that we wouldn't meet (the standards) this year because we have added additional programs. It will take two years for the results to really show."
Say added that there are some good things about the NCLB, but there are some "out-of-sight" expectations. "Our goal is to meet the standards next year," he said. "We'll strive for the high expectations."
None of the schools within the Ukiah school district met AYP standards, and school officials were unavailable for comment.
Morrow County Schools
Not every school in the Morrow County School District managed to slip by the AYP tests, but Superintendent Mark Burrows said he is encouraged by the results just the same.
"All of our schools passed with the exception of Riverside High School," Burrows said. Riverside High School in Boardman maintains a high percentage of English Language Learning students as well as what Burrows called "economically disadvantaged" students.
While the school failed to meet the minimum requirements for passing there were higher scores then last year which Burrows said represents an improvement.
Students raised their math results from 6 percent in 2003 up to 24 percent this year. Language arts also showed improvement from 12 percent in 2003 to 24 percent this year.
"Those numbers aren't good enough but I'm encouraged," Burrows said.
Elementary numbers for Morrow County were quite high in some schools including 86 percent of third grade students passing reading tests at A.C. Houghton in Irrigon, and 89 percent passing for math at Sam Boardman Elementary.
Columbia Middle School also did not make the grade for passing AYP, but because the school will be changed to the new Irrigon High School those test results will not matter Burrows said.
The Ione School District, only an elementary school and a high school, have not received results from their test sback yet because more information may be needed for such a small district.
"It tends to happen when you are fairly small like us," said first year Superintendent Bryn Browning.
Browning said she does not know when results will come back for Ione but because the district is so new there are no results from the previous year to even compare. "It's really hard being our first year of operation."