Schools’ test scores on the rise

The South Whidbey Board of Education heard some numbers they liked during Monday night’s meeting at the Intermediate School community room.

The long-delayed results of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests, finally released this week, were the subject of an upbeat discussion. Superintendent Martin Laster told board members the district has made “incremental gains in every area of the test.”

The WASL is given every spring to the state’s fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders and reflects what students know based on the state’s Essential Academic Learning Requirements in reading, writing, listening and mathematics. Students either pass or fail the test. The results are not used for college entrance criteria.

The results given to the board Monday were from tests taken by students in the spring of 2003.

School board director Helen Price Johnson said,“the scores are cause for celebration.”

“Break out the party hats and the balloons,” she said.

Laster told board members that the scores are a real tribute to the district’s teachers.

“The gains at the high school indicate that the principals and teachers have established a climate where (the tests) are taken seriously by the students,” Laster said.

Speaking specifically about Bayview High School 10th-graders, Laster was encouraged by the results, even though they still lag far behind those made by South Whidbey High School students.

“Bayview looks dramatically better than they did originally,” he said.

The WASL is mandated by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and is backed by federal measures. It is one component of the “No Child Left Behind” education act, which requires schools nationwide to prove they are making “adequate yearly progress.”

Laster said every school is district in the state has met that requirement.

Washington state students began taking the WASL in the mid-1990s.

Critics of the test say that teachers should not be teaching to tests.

Parents can opt not to have their students take the test, but if they do it can affect the final tally for a school. For every student who doesn’t take the test, a zero is tallied into the percentage.

This becomes more obvious when there are only 11 or 12 students total in a class, and two decide not to take the test as happened at the Whidbey Island Academy, or Shared Schooling Cooperative. One 10th-grade student at South Whidbey High School failed to take the test. In the fourth grade, two students were not tested. No information was available on the number of seventh-graders who missed the test.

Passing the WASL will become a graduation requirement starting in the 2008-09 school year. During the 2004-05 school year, the test will include a science component.

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