Pendleton and Hermiston high schools were among the 77 percent of Oregon's high schools that failed to meet the standards of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, as measured by the Adequate Yearly Progress report.
For the second year in a row, Pendleton High School did not meet benchmark standards for the federal law. Hermiston's two middle schools and high school fell short of meeting federal educational standards, according to newly released results.
The AYP report is given to all third-, fifth- and 10th-graders.
In order for a district to pass, all of its schools must meet AYP standards in all categories. Schools must meet goals set by the federal government in language arts and math, participation, academic status and growth, attendance and graduation rates. These areas are divided into subcategories of students based on ethnicity, whether or not they're economically disadvantaged, have English proficiency or are disabled.
The AYP requires every school in the district to meet benchmark standards at 100 percent by 2014. This year's standard was set at 40 percent, and 64 percent of Oregon's schools met AYP, with 59 schools still pending a designation.
Schools that receive certain types of federal funds and do not make AYP are required to provide supplemental services, such as free tutoring or after-school assistance, take corrective actions and, if still not making AYP after five years, must make dramatic changes to the way the school is run.
Preliminary results were released to schools Tuesday and this morning the Oregon Department of Education released to the public detailed reports of which schools met and didn't meet in particular subcategories.
PHS did not meet the standard in one category: students with disabilities. The same was true for Sunridge Middle School, which also did not meet AYP for the second year in a row.
"This is an ongoing challenge we're facing here at Pendleton," said Pendleton Superintendent Jim Keene. "The good news is that all our elementary buildings met and that's a real positive."
PHS and Sunridge were the only two Pendleton schools not to meet AYP.
The three student groups where schools in Oregon most often did not meet AYP were special education, limited English proficiency and economically disadvantaged students.
But Keene doesn't believe in pointing a blaming finger on particular groups of students for causing a district not to meet AYP standards.
"If you label a school based on one subset of students, you're mischaracterizing the whole school," Keene said. "It's not fair to blame a certain group of students just because it takes them longer to learn."
The Oregon Department of Education wants to see improvements in all of its schools, especially since just 64 percent of schools made AYP this year.
"... Oregon's high schools are struggling - only one in four high schools met the standard," said Susan Castillo, state superintendent of instruction for the Oregon Department of Education. "While we work to gain more financial support for schools, we also need to make sure we use every dollar we have to create more success for students."
In Oregon, 25 percent of elementary and middle schools did not meet AYP.
"We have to break this pattern of low achievement - and that means doing things differently," Castillo said, noting that the department of education is working with six Oregon high schools to plot best practices in day-to-day classroom instruction.
Title I schools improved statewide from last year's AYP reports, with 77 percent meeting the benchmark. These particular schools receive extra funding from the government to assist with special instruction for struggling students, and are designated based on the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
Keene said all of the Pendleton elementary schools except one - McKay Elementary - are Title I-funded schools, and all of them passed AYP this year.
However, Castillo said she is concerned that the NCLB does not give non-Title I schools enough support.
"When schools are given the resources they need, focus on classroom instruction, and operate with a set of clear expectations and consequences, we see the results we all want," Castillo said. "... All students in Oregon deserve the same level of focus and support that No Child Left Behind gives to Title I schools."
All of Hermiston's elementary schools met the standards. However, Armand Larive Middle School, Sandstone Middle School and Hermiston High School fell short.
"With the exception of a few areas, it appears district schools are successfully meeting expectations of NCLB," Superintendent Jerry Wilson said. "Our test results have shown improvements."
Sandstone Middle School met the standards last year but fell short this year. Wilson blamed the slip on difficult requirements for special education students.
"Looking at the growth target for the special education standard has been difficult for all our secondary schools," Wilson said. "That's something we're working on."
Wilson added that the special education requirements have caused difficulties for secondary schools across the state. He also questioned the wisdom of requiring students with special needs to meet the same standards as other students.
Students with disabilities did not meet the expected standards at any of the secondary schools. At the high school, students who were economically disadvantaged, had limited English proficiency or had disabilities did not meet AYP standards in language arts and math. Hispanic students fell short in the language arts standards.
Hermiston's results of elementary schools meeting AYP and secondary schools failing mirrors a statewide trend, Wilson said. He added the state is looking at why that might be.
Wilson said each school that failed to meet the AYP standards would be responsible for looking at possible changes to meet those standards. He added the district is working on a concept called "sheltered instruction" that emphasizes key concepts to get across to special education students.
The district has also found that for high school students to succeed on the NCLB mathematics tests, they need to take Algebra II. Wilson said fewer than half of Hermiston High School students take the class, and that's something the district is looking at.
The AYP results for Milton-Freewater are mixed, with Ferndale and Freewater elementary schools meeting its federally-imposed goals in all categories. Grove Elementary had no data presented in most categories, while it met the requirement in attendance. Central Middle School did not meet the AYP designation and the English language categories, but did meet the math and attendance requirements. McLoughlin High School met the math requirement only.
"Milton-Freewater schools significantly improved, and we are targeting some areas to make continued growth," Superintendent Marilyn McBride said. "I am so proud of our parents, students and staff. They have certainly caused some great increases in our scores."
Instead of the simple "met" and "not met" classifications, McBride broke down the elements that pleased her with the AYP. She said some highlights were that Freewater Elementary climbed from 12.5 percent of students with disabilities in meeting AYP in 2003 to 64.29 percent meeting it in the March ranking.
The scores, which are determined by breaking the students down into groups, showed McBride that the students who were classified as having limited English proficiency have demonstrated that the district needs to target them for more improvement. McBride said that at several of the schools this group met requirements in one or more academic areas and the school system will continue to work for improvement in that subgroup.
McBride said that the temporary adjustments made for the special education subgroup helped the AYP results. She worries that, as the bar is raised, it will be impossible for some groups to be labeled as making adequate yearly progress.
"The impossible bar has not discouraged our staff," she said. "They are troupers. The AYP reports are only one piece of information. We'll factor the AYP report along with other achievement information into our existing school improvement process to ensure all of our schools are providing the best possible education for our students. Our scores showing student growth is the best piece of information and it clearly shows we are making progress."
For more detailed results of the AYP reports for all school districts in the state, log onto the Oregon Department of Education's Web site at www.ode.state.or.us.