Fighting Failure, part 2: A neighboring perspective

Editor’s note: This is part two of a series about the statewide problems in Oregon’s education system, and how it affects local
schools in the Southern Willamette region. This week’s story follows Pleasant Hill School District test scores.

Along with Creswell, the Pleasant Hill School District has also been working on the best way to improve and enhance test scores in the district. The district, which placed below the state average in English and mathematics from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, led Lane County with the highest district score in science with 68 percent.
The state average in science is at 60.2 percent, which Pleasant Hill beat by 7.8 percent. Eugene came in second at 67.8 percent. This is a 2.6 percent increase for Pleasant Hill from the 2016-17 academic year.
Pleasant Hill, located between Springfield and Creswell to the east, serves 948 students with one counselor and 52 teachers. The American School Counselor Association recommended schools have a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio.
For math, Pleasant Hill is rated seventh in Lane County – out of 16 districts – at 37.6 percent, and is sandwiched between Marcola and South Lane; a four percent decrease from the 2016-17 academic year. In English, the district comes in at 11th with 50.3 percent, and located between Mapelton and Bethel; a .1 percent increase from the previous year.
Math and English Language Arts are also assessed by The Achievement indicator, which shows the percentage of students who are meeting either the mathematic or English achievement standard, adjusted denominator and corresponding rating for each group. The rating consists of levels one through five – where five is the highest rating – over three years of data.
In math, the three-year average percentage is 42.9 percent at the elementary school, which puts them at level two; at the middle school the average is 35.9 percent and the high school (only grade 11) average is 38.5 percent – placing both schools also at a level two. The state’s long term goal is 80 percent for all schools in the district.
For language arts, the elementary school and middle school are both at level twos, with a 46.7 percent and 48.4 percent three-year average, respectively. The high school (grade 11), however, is a 73.7 percent average, placing them at a level four.
Although a smaller district than Creswell, Pleasant Hill has a committee in place to oversee the improvement in the district.
”The Pleasant Hill Improvement Plan Committee is charged with looking at how we deliver instruction in the school district,” Superintendent Scott Linenberger said in an email.
The committee is composed of community members, classified and certified employees, administrators and school board members. Linenberger said the committee is focused on three major focus areas: student engagement, literacy and relationships.
”Currently, this committee is working on how to make those three main areas of focus quantifiable,” he said. ”In making these areas of focus quantifiable, we are looking at using the SMART format.”
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable and achievable, relevant and timely. Linenberg explained that ”specific” defines the goal as much as possible; ”measurable” tracks the progress and measures the outcome; ”attainable and achievable” asks if the goal is reasonable enough to be accomplished; ”relevant” asks if the goal is worthwhile and if it will meet the district’s needs; and ”timely” suggests that the objective should have a time limit.
”Understand this is a work in progress,” he said. ”Once the PHIP committee has the area of focus developed, it will be taken to the school board and presented to them. In this district we’re trying to develop a greater working relationship throughout the district in order to continue to improve instruction.”
Linenberg also added, that the district has been increasing its area of professional development, by offering training for staff members through the Kagan Cooperative Learning Structure.
”Kagan specializes in staff development and educational resources for teachers,” Linenberg explained. ”They are considered one of the leading authority on cooperative learning, classroom discipline and multiple intelligences.”
Based off the research of Dr. Spencer Kagan, the learning structure is used to ”increase academic achievement, improve ethnic relations, enhance self-esteem, create a more harmonious classroom climate, reduce discipline problems, and develop students’ social skills and character virtues,” according to its website.
Linenberg said that the district is also in the process of developing an after school program to support students who may need more opportunities to improve on their school work.
Moving forward, Linenberger said he is also open to the opportunity to work together with Creswell on ways to strengthen both school districts.
”In Pleasant Hill, our focus is always striving to improve on what we had been or are currently doing and where we want to go,” he said. ”We have a dedicated staff and strong community support. If the Creswell school board has some ideas, on the improvement of an assessment tool, I would be interested in meeting with the Creswell superintendent to further discuss the proposed plan (or) concepts that the Creswell school board is considering (or) developing.”



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