Local WASL scores higher than state average

POULSBO — Results of the spring 2009 Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam are in, and students in the North Kitsap School District did better, on average, than their peers throughout the state.

In 18 of 20 subject areas tested, the percentage of NKSD students passing the WASL was higher than the average number of students passing statewide, according to statistics published Aug. 17 on the district’s Web site.

In some areas, such as fifth grade science and sixth grade math, North Kitsap students beat out the state averages by at least nine points. In all but two other areas, numbers of local students passing the test ranged from less than one point to more than seven points above statewide averages.

“What we have are teachers that are very focused on teaching what the standards are for the state,” said Bill Every, director of instructional technology and assessment for the NKSD, noting the WASL is just one of a few state standards of achievement. “We have been very focused on student achievement for a number of years now.”

The only two areas where NKSD students came in below the state average were seventh and 10th grade writing, where they were 3.1 and 4.4 points, respectively, behind the state.

Numbers of local elementary school students passing the WASL ranged widely depending on the school and subject. Suquamish Elementary students tested low in some areas, but far outpaced their district peers in fifth grade science, and tested high in fifth grade math.

Students at Breidablik Elementary set the pace in some test areas, but turned in low passing numbers in fourth grade math and writing.

“There are not bad schools, there are pockets of kids that we need to have do better,” district spokeswoman Chris Case said. “Kids are not robots. They learn at different paces. A kid who didn’t get third grade will catch on in fourth grade.”

Case also said the WASL numbers can be deceiving, because some students may not have taken the test, and are therefore included in the number of students who did not pass.

Despite outpacing much of the state in WASL scores, all but two schools in the district — Vinland and Breidablik elementary schools — failed to meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress (AYP) set under the No Child Left Behind act. Two-hundred-nine of the state’s 295 districts and nearly 1,300 of the state’s schools also failed to meet AYP standards this year.

The standards require that every school and school district in the state increase the percentage of students that pass the WASL each year. Next year, the WASL will be replaced with newer, shorter tests, called the Measurements of Student Progress for students in grades three through eight, and the High School Proficiency Exam for older students. According to federal standards, eventually 100 percent of students will be expected to pass the state test.

Under current conditions, schools that receive federal assistance, or Title 1 schools, receive sanctions if they do not meet AYP standards. There are multiple levels of sanctions, the first of which include the requirement that Title 1 schools devote 10 percent of their federal funds to improving teacher training in the subjects in which students did not meet AYP standards.

“There’s a multi-step process that ends up with the state taking over your school,” Case said.

Kingston Middle School, Wolfle, Poulsbo, Suquamish and Pearson elementary schools are all Title 1 schools.

Case also said the WASL is one of the toughest state tests in the nation, and that the state has become more open to accepting other test scores, such as SATs, from students trying to fulfill graduation requirements. Federal standards may change as well, to make achievement goals more realistic, Case said.

“They’re trying to find ways to make it more reasonable,” she said.

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