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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Audit Outlines 'Achievement Gap' In State Middle Schools

A new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State's office finds that minority and economically disadvantaged eighth-graders in Oregon are falling behind in the classroom.

The report released Wednesday shows that students from those groups are often a year behind their peers in reading and math.

Half of the students at Ogden Middle School in Oregon City qualify for free or reduced lunches. That's a sign of the economic hardships many students face there. Principal Libby Miller says staff members have learned to keep an eye out for kids from struggling families.

"We find that the kids haven't eaten in awhile, or they're dehydrated, or they don't have the supplies they need to access their learning. So we just intervene."

Miller says that hands-on approach helps students from low-income families achieve their best.

Ogden Middle School was cited as one of Oregon's few bright spots when it comes to closing the so-called achievement gap that exists between poor and minority students and those from middle and upper-class families.

The Secretary of State audit recommends that other districts look at schools like Ogden Middle School for ideas on what they can do to close their achievement gap.