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School leaders respond to WASL scores
Leaders in the Carbonado, Enumclaw and White River school districts were celebrating the positives and preparing to tackle trouble spots as they pored over Washington Assessment of Student Learning results.
The state Superintendent of Public Instruction's office released the results to the public Aug. 14, but school districts have them in their hands for a while.
The WASL, a comprehensive statewide test to assess student learning in the areas of reading, writing, math and science at grades three through 10, was administered in the spring.
The 2008-09 school year was the last for the WASL. Beginning this school year, the WASL will be replaced by two new tests: the grades Measurements of Student Progress, for those in third through eighth grades, and the High School Proficiency Exam.
“Although we’ve seen huge gains since we began testing in the late 1990s, in the past few years we’re seeing a plateau,” Superintendent of Public Intruction Randy Dorn said. “That’s one of the reasons why we need an improved assessment.”
Despite the change in tests, the graduation requirements associated with high school state testing remain the same.
In the Carbonado Historical School District where scores have been traditionally above the state average, Superintendent Scott Hubbard was pleased by students' high reading scores, 80 percent as a school, but not surprised by a dip in math scores which was predicted if the district continued to concentrate on basic skills.
"We were told if we teach to the K-8 standard we would see a dip in our math scores," Hubbard said. "We're happy our students will have a foundation necessary to do the higher level skills when they get to high school.
"We are hopeful what we've stressed so heavily last year and again this year will pay off."
Despite the changes, math scores for third-, seventh- and eighth-grade Carbonado students were above the state average. Carbonado third-graders scored 94.4 percent in reading and 72.2 percent in math.
Hubbard said his team also has a plan in place to improve in science, which came in at 17.4 percent for the fifth-grade level, below the state average.
"Clearly our WASL scores are mixed," Enumclaw School District Assessment and Curriculum Director Terry Parker said. "There are some bright spots."
Among them were improvements at the secondary level. Enumclaw seventh-grade students scored above the state average in math, while eighth-grade students were above the state average in reading and science; they met the state average in math. Enumclaw High School 10th-grade students scored above the state in all categories.
"We still have lots of work ahead in terms of math and science," Parker said.
The district recently adopted a math curriculum and assessment which begins in September.
"The big picture is in mathematics," Parker said. "There's a great deal of work ahead of us. We've completely retooled the system K through 12."
Parker did note third and fourth grade scores were mixed and flat, all coming in under the state average.
"That's the heart of our mathematics work this year," he said. "Historically our reading is strong. We're looking at whether this is a one year anomaly or a pattern."
White River School District Curriculum and Assessment Director Mike Jacobsen said the district is celebrating gains, especially at the elementary school level. More importantly, Jacobsen said, this year's WASL results are showing less ups and downs.
"We're seeing sustained growth over time," he said. He pointed out third-grade test scores, which were at 81.4 percent in reading and 81.7 percent in math, as a highlight, as well as the continued strong showing from Foothills Elementary School students. Foothills third-grade students scored 88.2 percent in reading and 96.1 percent in math and showed improvement at all levels, and grade levels, for the third straight year.
Another positive, Jacobsen noted, was 10th-grade writing. White River High's 89.4 percent in writing, he said, showcases the work that has been going on behind the scenes in language arts.
Like other districts, he was disappointed in middle school scores, which showed slight decreases from the previous year. The district plans to continue working on its intervention system to catch students who may be struggling with skills or concepts at certain levels so they may become proficient in those areas before moving deeper into the system.
Enumclaw and White River are among more than 1,000 districts in the state that did not meet federal adequate yearly progress standards. AYP measures how public schools are doing at meeting accountability goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Several categories come into play.
Jacobsen said he awaits changes at the federal level that may help provide more support or acknowledge improvement.
"Right now it does not factor in growth," Jacobsen said.
Parker said the district is looking at its AYP status as a positive.
"I see it as an opportunity for us," he said, adding it's another assessment from the state that may include resources to help the district implement programs to create better students.