Oregon Connections Academy Meets All Areas of AYP; 2009 State Test Scores Exceptional

Virtual school currently under attack from legislators and teacher unions once again demonstrates strong academic results on top of recent satisfaction survey noting high praise from parents

SCIO, OREGON, June 10, 2009 — Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA), the full-time, K-12 virtual school serving students across Oregon, continues to demonstrate strong academic results according to the recently released preliminary results of the 2009 Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) and 2008–09 adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals. The school has served over 3,000 students during the 2008–09 school year and has been praised for its consistently high academic performance since its opening in August of 2004. Yet some state legislators are working to close the school down when its current charter contract completes its initial term in June of 2010. A new law implements a number of requirements that have never been associated with student achievement in a virtual setting and despite its record of academic success, a special committee established to determine the future for virtual education in Oregon has never visited the school or reviewed its practices.

Jerry Wilks, the school’s Executive Director is proud of the performance of his students and staff. “Given our continued growth, and the fact that 49% of our students are from low income families, keeping our academic achievement high is a challenge. That is why I am particularly pleased that once again this year, our results continue to show improvement. To meet AYP in all areas, according to the preliminary results released by ODE, is thrilling. Our results were so high last year in reading on the state tests that we thought it would be difficult to get any higher, but our average proficiency for grades 3 through 8 actually went up. In math, which is always a challenge, we saw an increase of approximately 10%. These are really terrific results.”

The school’s 2007–08 scores exceeded the state results in both reading and math in all grades as well as significantly exceeding the results of the other virtual school operating in the state at that time. However, ORCA narrowly missed meeting AYP in 2007–08 due to missing the participation requirements of one ethnicity subgroup by one student while meeting performance and participation standards in all other categories. The school expects that its strong results this year will also compare favorably to the state and other virtual schools, but this data will not be available until mid-July.

Mr. Wilks continued with, “We are so pleased with ORCA’s performance on the state’s tests which provides a comparison on the same basis to all other schools in Oregon. These results make the legislature’s recent actions even more frustrating since this is a clear attempt by those who want to maintain the status quo to eliminate any form of innovation that they do not control. We cannot believe that no one has even asked us how we do it. In fact, they want to change almost everything about the way we operate even though there is no evidence that suggests our performance will improve. In fact their proposal will shut us down!”

The Oregon Department of Education’s OAKS and AYP results come on the heels of an independent survey of ORCA parents. 93% of parents with students enrolled in Oregon Connections Academy gave the school a grade of “A” or “B”, with 60% selecting the highest grade of “A”. In addition, 96% of parents rated the curriculum as high quality; over 96% of parents recommend Oregon Connections Academy to parents with students who are not enrolled in the school and over 76% agree the curriculum is more challenging than their students’ former schooling (public, home or other). See below for survey methodology*.

Mr. James Carlile, Co-Director, Center for Student Success at Portland State University agrees. “Having just completed our second annual site review of ORCA, it is not surprising to me that their test scores are showing results. ORCA is a school focused on individual instruction and they are able to identify student strengths and weaknesses. Our review of student performance data from the most recent Oregon Assessment demonstrates significant growth by a substantial number of students. The staff and administration at Oregon Connections Academy should be complimented for their focus on getting all kids to reach high standards."

Parents have been actively engaged in supporting the school by contacting their elected officials. A key vote that will determine ORCA’s fate is expected this week.

About Oregon Connections Academy
Oregon Connections Academy is a charter school that serves students in Oregon state-wide in grades K-12. It opened in August 2004 after being authorized by the Scio School District 95C and is accredited by the Northwest Association of Colleges and Schools. The school is a non-profit institution that is governed by an independent volunteer board of directors. The school is operated under contract to Connections Academy, a leading national provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual public schools in fourteen states operated in partnership with charter schools, school districts, and state departments of education. Connections Academy schools deliver top quality, personalized education for students that combines certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences to create a supportive and successful environment for children who want an individualized approach to education. In Connections Academy's Personalized Performance Learning® approach, students use daily lesson plans and curriculum materials provided by Connections Academy. Teachers develop a learning plan for each student, utilizing a proprietary, web-based Learning Management System to deliver, track, and administer the learning. In 2008–09 Connections Academy serves students in Arizona, California (Southern and Central), Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri (through the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program), Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some schools do not offer all grades. For more information on Oregon Connections Academy, visit www.connectionsacademy.com/orca or call 800-382-6010.

*Survey Methodology
Oregon Connections Academy conducts its annual Parent Satisfaction Survey to find out how its parents grade the program in several key areas. The 2008–09 survey was conducted in February by L.J. Shapiro & Associates, an independent market research company, which created the questionnaire, collected the data, and tabulated the results. No individual responses were accessible to Connections Academy. Parents of all currently enrolled students were invited to complete the survey. An email invitation was sent to each parent, and one response per household was submitted. Responses were received from nearly 70 percent of all Oregon households in the Oregon Connections Academy program.