Good news from latest state school test scores

Published on Thu, Sep 12, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Good news from latest state school test scores

By Meg Olson

“District-wide we’re up all the way across,” said Blaine elementary school principal and school district Deb Cummings after getting her first look at last years scores for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). “That’s exciting.”

In reading, math, and writing skills Blaine students in the grades tested, 4th, 7th and 10th, all showed improvement over the scores for those grades in the 2000-2001 school year. In listening skills 4th graders showed a slight drop in scores, 7th graders stayed at last year’s level and 10th grade students showed a ten-percent improvement rate.

The annual WASL test, part of the state’s monitoring of student learning, was first administered to 4th graders in 1996 and phased in to 7th and 10th grade.

“This is our main emphasis – teaching essential learnings – and WASL is how we judge whether kids are meeting those standards or not,” Cummings said. “The whole state is working towards the same goal.”

The 2001-2002 10th grade students showed the greatest improvement. Scores in all four areas were ten to 50 percent higher than the 2000-2001 scores and the highest scores of any year since 10thgraders started WASL testing in 1998. They were also higher than state averages across the board.

In reading tests 69 percent of 10th graders met or exceeded state standards, compared with 59 percent statewide. In math 43 percent met the state standard, compared to 37 statewide. In writing 62 percent met the state standard, double the number that met the standard every year since 1998. Across the state 54 percent of students met writing standards. In listening skills 86 percent met the state standard, compared to 82 statewide. “It’s the best atmosphere of striving for excellence I’ve experienced in 25 years in education,” said high school principal Dan Newell.

Seventh grade students also performed above the state average in every area. In reading 58 percent of students met the state standard, compared to 45 statewide.

In math 50 percent met the state standard, compared to 30 percent statewide. Scores in both areas were up almost 20 percent from the 2000-2001 school year. In writing 60 percent of students met the state standard, compared to 53 statewide and up from 50 percent the year before. Listening scores remained similar to the previous year, with 90 percent of students meeting standards compared to 84 percent statewide.
Increases were less dramatic for fourth graders and scores dropped by two percent in listening skills. In reading 66 percent of students met the state standard, even with the statewide average. Math and writing scores remained below the state average.

In math 43 percent met the state standard, compared to 52 percent statewide and in writing 37 percent of students met the state standard, compared to 50 statewide. In listening 69 percent met the state standard, compared to 67 percent statewide.

Cummings said improvements came from a hard look at how the schools prepare students to meet test standards, which will be mandatory for graduation beginning with the class of 2008. “In every department district-wide we looked at some of the test items the state released early and identified some of our strengths and weaknesses,” she said. The schools are also working on comprehensive school improvement plans that chart progress towards the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s benchmark qualities for successful schools.

Middle school principal Randy Elsbree said changes to curriculum and teaching focus implemented several years ago are now bearing fruit.
“We have a new math curriculum that focuses on problem solving and writing. We’ve really put emphasis on help with reading. This year those benefits have showed up,” he said. ..

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