BlaineWASL scores show year-to-year improvement

Published on Thu, Sep 14, 2006 by ack Kintner

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Blaine WASL scores show year-to-year improvement

By Jack Kintner

The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test scores were released last week by the office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI), and Blaine’s results continue to show steady improvement over the past nine years, according to Deb Cummings, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Blaine school district.

Reacting to this year’s results, Cummings commented that “Blaine continues to do more with less, meaning that in general the support we get to address the problems this kind of testing may reveal continues to gradually decline as against demands placed on the district from increasing population and greater student diversity. Despite this, our results continue to improve year after year in almost all areas.”
To get an idea as to how well the schools are preparing students, Cummings cautioned against reading too much into scores for a specific subject or year.

“Each class will have differences that make it difficult to compare year-to-year,” she said, “so I do three year averages to get a bigger sample and give us a better picture as to how we’re doing as teachers.”

That way, she said, one compares groups of 500 or more students instead of single classes of approximately 160 students, and trends are less apt to be affected by year-to-year performance variations.
Cummings showed data to the Blaine school board at its August meeting that included a comparison of results averaged over several years from 1997 through 2006 for the fourth, seventh and tenth grades, the classes who have been taking the test for the past nine years.

“What you hope to see is a ‘stair-step,’ data that shows consistent improvement in the percentage of students who pass the test in succeeding periods and, when put into a bar graph, looks like a set of stairs.”

Blaine shows this pattern for all three subjects in all three grades except for fourth grade math, where the percentage of students passing dropped from an average of 60 percent in the years 2003 to 20-05 to 48 percent in the single year 2006. “That tells us something,” Cummings said.

She added: “and the next two years will affect that 48 percent result, but we also realize that this or any evaluative tool gives us just a snapshot of what we’re doing.”

The WASL test was instituted in 1997 and since 2003 has also been used to satisfy federal requirements for evaluating students and school districts.

The test has been given to students in the fourth, seventh and tenth grades to measure individual achievement in the traditional three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. In 2003 a science section was added, and this past year students in grades three, five, six and eight began taking the test as well.

Beginning with this year’s junior class, students must pass the test prior to graduating in 2008.

Students who fail to pass one or more sections twice are eligible for alternative assessments, but they may also re-take the test up to three times.

“Basically, a student who doesn’t pass is identified and helped to get through it the next time, unless he or she chooses not to do that,” said Cummings, “because what we’re about is both graduating students who can successfully compete for jobs and being accountable as a district. And that’s the goal of everyone who works here, including principals, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, you name it.”

For more information, go to www.k12.wa.us/, and click on School Report Card on the right side of the page. On the upper left side of the page where it says summary, click on the drop-down menu and choose Blaine school district.