WASL scores climbing

When it comes to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning — a test all incoming 10th graders must pass in order to graduate — improvements are better served in small doses and not in huge gains.

The same goes for dips in the assessment’s scores: despite the looming deadline for mandatory passage of the test, significant declines aren’t worth getting bent out of shape about.

If both these statements are true, then it was another year of progress for students in the North Kitsap School District, whose scores on the WASL primarily made a gradual rise in 2005.

“You don’t get really excited by huge gains and you don’t get too alarmed by big losses,” said NKSD’s Director of Curriculum and Assessment Wally Lis. “What you want is a nice, steady climb. If you get that, you know the program is getting better.”

Lis said he’s “thrilled” with most of the scores in the district, stating that most students are passing two out of the three core tests in reading, writing and math. Science scores were lower (see accompanying gray box), but that test won’t be required to graduate until the class of 2010.

There were some variations around the district in the preliminary scores, though. Reading and writing marks at Breidablik Elementary took a dip — with reading falling from 76.8 to 62.9 and writing from a 56.5 to a 38.7 — but Lis said that both are actually errors, one caused by a computer glitch and the other by a “proctoring issue.”

Otherwise, the fourth grade reading scores improved at every elementary, most notably at Wolfle, where there was a 14 point improvement to an 84.4, and at Suquamish, where there was a 23.2 point improvement from a 70.5 score a year ago to a district-high 93.7.

Scores at the junior high school level saw gradual increases across the board, including a 14 point improvement in writing to an overall 68.2 score.

“They seem to be taking the test more seriously,” Lis said, as the students begin to feel the pressure of knowing they’ll have to pass the test to graduate.

The 10th grade scores lagged behind junior high and elementary scores, and although there was an 8 point spike in the percentage who passed the reading test to 72.2 and a small increase in science scores, math and writing scores fell.

The high school’s numbers could still be affected by the fact the 10th graders taking the test — among the class of 2007 — do not actually have to pass the WASL, though they still will have scores placed on their high school transcripts.

A factor in bringing the scores down was NK alternative school Spectrum, which had only 8.3 percent of its students pass the reading, 12 percent pass the writing and no students pass the math or science portions. As a result, it was placed on the “Needs Improvement” list for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) by the federal government.

“Spectrum is geared toward reaching students that don’t make it in the traditional school system,” Lis said. “Their job now is to mesh the district curriculum with the state curriculum.”

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