District raises WASL scores

"POULSBO - With one exception, the North Kitsap School district has raised all of its scores in the WASL. Students in grades four, seven and 10 take the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) each year. The test, which asks questions in four categories - reading, mathematics, writing and listening - will be required for students to graduate beginning in 2008. The only category that did not increase this year was seventh-grade mathematics, which lowered from last year's 36.6 percent who passed to 32.9. While the district has plenty of work to do, especially in mathematics and writing, the scores are a good sign, said Len Campbell, the district's director of curriculum. I think it's good news. We're up in almost every single area, she explained. The increase was impressive, Campbell said, but not much of a surprise. We're doing more every year, she said. We're getting more and more focused, we're doing more staff training. I would expect the scores to go up. According to Campbell, some of the highlights include the scores at Poulsbo, Hilder Pearson, and Vinland Elementary, where the percentage of students passing in some categories pushed 70, 80, and even 90 percent; the improvements at Gordon, which has raised its scores dramatically since 1997; the reading scores at Poulsbo Elementary, which jumped to 83.7 percent, one of the highest ever for an elementary school; and a 20 percent increase in the listening scores at Vinland Elementary. While the increase in scores is a positive, Campbell said, many of the scores still need to be raised, especially in writing and mathematics. Although the listening and reading scores often pushed or exceeded 90 percent, those numbers are not found in writing or mathematics. The percentage of fourth-grade students who passed the writing portion was 41.9; the percentage of fourth-grade students who passed mathematics was 56.5. In junior high, those numbers were 60.1 and 32.9, respectively. And in high school, those numbers are 50.1 and 45.3. While those numbers are, for the most part, higher than last year's, they aren't high enough, Campbell said. Those two are going to need more work, she remarked. To do that, the schools will hold more teacher and staff trainings, and those sessions will have more of a focus on reading and math. Each school will be given statistical information on how their grades did, and the higher grades will be given information on how they did in past WASLs. Last year, Campbell said, the focus was on reading. The WASL takes a week to complete. It is unlike many tests because it requires students to not only answer questions but, in many cases, to explain how they reached those answers. In the mathematics section, for example, student must write a brief synopsis of how they completed a problem. The test is taken toward the end of the year. "

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