Area test scores beat national averages

  • Melissa Slager<br>
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 9:57am

Local schools were again above the norm on a national test, the last such scores before the WASL occupies more No. 2 pencils next year.

This was the last year the state’s third- and sixth-graders will take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.

Next year, students in those grades and fifth and eighth grades will take the Washington Assessment of Student Learning reading and math tests, joining fourth- and seventh-graders.

As the emphasis has shifted, scores on the Iowa tests have tended to slip or remain flat, said Ric Williams, assessment director for Everett Public Schools.

“They probably don’t get as much attention because it’s not just about knowing more facts now. It’s how well you can use those facts to solve problems or construct a response,” which are higher-order skills the WASL measures, Williams said.

Educators such as Williams look forward to giving the WASL instead so they can better track student gains from year to year.

Even though the Iowa tests are being phased out, the information is still useful, said Warren Hopkins, an assistant superintendent with the Arlington School District.

“The value of any assessment is to use it to guide instruction,” Hopkins said. “That is more important than getting a score of an individual student.”

The Iowa tests measure students’ knowledge of reading, math and language arts with multiple-choice questions, then rank students against a national comparison group from 1995. A 50th percentile rank is the national average.

The WASL, by contrast, measures students against state standards in reading, math and other subjects through a variety of question formats.

Local scores on the Iowa tests have been relatively flat in recent years, following the state trend.

The state’s third-graders averaged 58 in reading and 66 in math. Sixth-graders averaged 55 in reading, 58 in math and 54 in language. A score of 50 is the national average.

Schools in Snohomish and Island counties generally performed above national and state averages. Three districts – Darrington, Marysville and Sultan – had at least one sixth-grade score below the national norm.

Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland said it is better to have slow incremental growth than large fluctuations. Steady progress allows districts to gauge the success of their improvement strategies, he said.

“You always like to see them go up more, but the way we are working is we would rather see small and consistent gains we can sustain,” Nyland said

Schools got their test results before the state release and are responsible for sending the results to parents.

Results for the Iowa Test of Educational Development given to ninth-graders will be released in July.

Melissa Slager and Eric Stevick write for The Herald in Everett.

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