Students in Malheur County post declining scores, with exceptions

Ontario High School. (Enterprise/File)

VALE – Student performance on state tests in Malheur County have declined overall in comparison with the rest of the state, according to results released recently by the state.

The results showed an average decline in performance in Malheur County schools with some exceptions. 

The data represent the percentage of students whose test scores meet state standards for testing in English language arts and mathematics from 2017-18 to 2018-2019. 

While Malheur County did worse overall in comparison to last year, Ontario Middle School seems to be bucking the downward trend in the two subjects represented in the data. 

Also notable is that the Adrian School District outperformed most of its peer schools in Malheur County, in both English and math, and also did better compared to the state average. 

The state averages for all grades, which include grades three to 11, were about 52% for English, and 39% for math. In contrast, Adrian scored about 64% in English and about 42% in math. 

The average for English in school districts in Malheur County, is about consistent with the rest of the state, while in math, area schools scored lower with about 34% meeting state standards. 

In Malheur County, students in Annex, Harper, Nyssa, Ontario, and the Four Rivers Community School generally scored below the state averages for English and in math.

District data shows that students in the Adrian, Harper, and Nyssa school districts generally performed worse in English than they did the year before. Ontario’s performance increased by a fraction from last year.

The Four Rivers Community School in Ontario did better in both English and math compared to last year, school-level results show. 

In math, Adrian, Jordan Valley, Ontario, and Vale, all performed worse than the year before, the data showed. 

A detailed breakdown of the data for individual schools in each of the major school districts in Malheur County provides a better 

Here’s a look, district by district:



Students in Adrian did worse in both English and math compared to last year. 

The school-level data indicate downward trends for both Adrian Elementary School and Adrian High School for all grades. 

The largest drops in both subjects were among fourth graders, who dropped to about 29% from 64% in English, and seventh graders who dropped from around 62% to 24% in math. 

Eleventh graders dropped from around 93% down to about 63% in English, and from about 50% to around 26% in math, the school-level data showed. 

Kevin Purnell, principal of Adrian High School and superintendent for the Adrian School District advised caution in considering the assessment results, especially when considering small class sizes as is the case in Adrian.

“When you are talking small class sizes, the numbers can be skewed one way or the other really easily,” Purnell said. “Don’t get too excited when the numbers look really good and don’t get too excited when they don’t look as good as we’d like them to.”

The assessment results for Adrian schools showed that the district struggled with math scores. 

Purnell said that this issue might have been partially caused by turnover in the math department since last year, and that students are still acclimating.

The district has since created a math consortium, and is working on creating more uniformity in the curriculum, Purnell said.  


In Nyssa, the district decreased overall in English performance, but its math scores were better than last year. 

The district still scored lower in both English and math compared with the averages for the rest of the state.  

Nyssa Elementary school did better in math but worse in English compared to last year, while Nyssa Middle School and High School did worse in both English and math.

For Nyssa, middle school math is an issue. The school dropped about 15% with around 24% of students from all grades performing satisfactorily, while sixth grade performance was about 18%, well below the state average. 

Darren Johnson, the district superintendent, said that “we are pleased that compared to the state average of scores, we are right on target in most areas, although we are not content with that.” 

“We would like to see steady growth in our student’s test scores.” 

Johnson said that the district’s graduation rate has improved, something that has been a major focus. 

Johnson said that the district wasn’t surprised with the results, and that it has been tracking student progress. 

“What I would like to highlight is that there were some students who didn’t pass the test, but because we are tracking them and addressing their areas of need, they showed great progress and will likely pass the tests in upcoming years,” he said. 

Johnson said that the top job moving forward is focusing on each student and their individual growth.

“Some kids did not pass the test this year, but they showed incredible growth leading up to the test, and we expect they will pass the test next year,” Johnson added. 


Ontario increased its English performance from last year but did worse in math. In both subjects Ontario students performed below the state average. 

The most notable drop in performance was among Ontario eleventh graders who dropped from 24% to about 16% in math. 

For all grades at Ontario Middle School, students improved from 50% to about 57% in English and from about 34% to about 43% for mathematics.

At the middle school, there was a performance increase in each grade level as well as overall increases in the averages for both subjects for all grades. Scores also were above the state averages for both English and math. 

Nicole Albisu, district superintendent, said that what most pleased her was that sixth, seventh and eighth graders scored higher than the state average, with the exception of eighth grade math which was slightly lower.  

Also, Albisu said she was pleased with that Ontario’s Hispanic population is performing above the state average in all subgroups and at other levels and subject areas.

“This demonstrates that OSD continues to close the achievement gap for students,” Albisu said. 

Albisu said what surprised her was that while state scores slumped nearly across the board, Ontario managed to increase in many areas. 

Albisu said that math continues to be a challenge for Ontario and that the district has hired additional math instructors as well as a math instructional coach for the high school this year. 

“The high school math department is definitely not satisfied with their results and has already been hard at work analyzing data, investigating high yield instructional practices and teaching strategies, realigning courses and content, and developing ways to support student learning,” Albisu said.


Vale students overall did better in English but worse in math compared to last year.

Vale outperformed the rest of the state in English, but underperformed in math. 

In Vale, Willowcreek Elementary School saw improvements in both subjects, and scored above the state average.

Vale Middle School improved in English, but not math, and Vale Elementary School and Vale High School both did worse in English and math.

Alisha McBride, district superintendent, said that the district has identified improving mathematics performance as a district goal. 

“We will be working with a district mathematics team this school year to review student mathematics data and develop strategies to improve mathematics performance on state assessments,” McBride said. 

“We are constantly analyzing all aspects of our educational model to identify ways in which we can ensure that students are prepared with diverse educational experiences and are prepared for success after attending Vale School District schools. While we are always seeking to improve our state assessment results, it is just one source of data that is used to measure student success in the Vale School District,” McBride added.   


The Four Rivers Community School in Ontario did better in both English and math compared with last year. 

The school scored below the state average in both English and math. 

With the exception of eighth graders, each grade level underperformed in English compared to last year. 

Most notably, eleventh graders at Four Rivers scored about 18% on their math assessment. 

Have a news tip? Reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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