WASL scores show some progress, some regression

  • Sarah Koenig<br>
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:38am

The results of the 2006 Washington Assessment of Student Learning, released last week, show less than half of some grades passed all three sections of the test.

Statewide, only 45.1 percent of sophomores passed the reading, writing and math parts of the exam administered last spring. Those students, now juniors, must pass all three sections of the test to graduate. They’re the first class to face the requirement.

School districts will send individual scores home to families by Sept. 22.

Below is a look at the local and statewide results:

Mountlake Terrace High School

At Mountlake Terrace, 49.6 percent of students passed all three sections of the WASL.

The school saw gains in all three subjects from 2005 to 2006. The gains include a 9 percent jump in the number of students passing math and a 20 percent jump in students meeting standard in writing. Reading scores jumped by about 14 percent.

The school knew that test scores would probably jump this year because data in other states showed that students take the test more seriously when it’s required for graduation, said Greg Schwab, principal.

“That being said, I also think we have done a lot of work over the last two years, especially in the area of literacy,” he added. “Really stressing with our teachers the importance of reading strategies.”

It was good to see the scores go up in all areas, though not as much in math and science as the school would have liked, Schwab said.

“We need to continue to work,” he said. “We’re going to pay more attention to math — the district will (too) — to get those students to standard.”

Lynnwood High School

At Lynnwood , 48.9 percent of students passed all three sections.

The school also saw dramatic gains this year compared to last. The percent of students meeting standard in math jumped from 38.9 percent to 55.3 percent. There was a 20 percent gain in writing: 60.5 to 80.6 percent and a 15 percent jump in reading: 71.6 to 86.6.

Behind those numbers may be leaps among immigrant students learning English as a second language. A year ago, only 13 percent of Lynnwood High English-language learners passed the reading exam. This year, nearly half did. Forty percent passed the writing exam, more than double the percentage of a year ago.

“The graduation requirement is a lot of motivation,” said Lynnwood teacher Risa Ford. “It is going to be a challenge for a lot of our kids.”

Edmonds-Woodway High School

Edmonds-Woodway High School had one of the best WASL passing rates in Snohomish county, with 60.9 passing all three sections of the exam.

More than 90 percent of students passed the reading and writing exams. In math, 67 percent passed, 16 percent higher than the state average.

Edmonds-Woodway Principal Alan Weiss is proud but worries about struggling math students.

“My biggest concern is urgency,” he said.

Weiss would like to see more money invested in math teachers assigned to elementary schools where they can help students catch on before they fall too far behind.

Meadowdale High School

Meadowdale saw 46.6 percent of its students meet standard in all three subjects.

There were minimal gains in percentages of students meeting standard on math: 54.7 percent last year and 55.2 percent this year. Reading scores, relatively high to begin with, jumped modestly from 81.3 of students meeting standard last year to 89.5 percent this year.

Writing saw a 14 percent jump from 75.6 percent last year to 89.8 percent this year.

Scriber Lake High School

Scriber Lake, the district’s alternative high school, saw 6.3 percent of its students pass all three subjects.

At Scriber Lake, 44.5 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, the highest of any school in the district. Some students work during the day and take classes at night.

Math scores fell from 11.1 percent of students passing last year to 7.7 this year, but reading rose from 42.6 percent passing last year to 57.1 percent this year.

Writing scores rose dramatically, from 26.7 percent passing last year to 55 percent this year.

Scriber Lake High School is the only school in the Edmonds School District district on a preliminary list of schools deemed in need of improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind law, based on WASL scores and other factors.


Statewide, passing rates rose, but only 45.1 percent of sophomores passed the WASL.

Scores took a surprising dip in fourth and seventh grades, which perplexed educators. Average math passing rates among Snohomish County fourth-graders dropped for the first time since schools first started giving the WASL in 1997.

Fourth-grade math scores at area schools fell by as many as 31 percentage points. Many seventh-grade scores also dropped, particularly in reading.

Everett Superintendent Carol Whitehead last month wrote a letter with some of her Snohomish County colleagues asking the state to review the falling scores.

“This year’s WASL scores are troubling, but our own measurements of seventh-grade reading tell us that our students are improving,” Whitehead said. “Therefore, we will hold the course and expect to see this year’s strange statistical anomaly become just a blip on an upward trend over time.”

Superintendent Bergeson said the state reviewed the test and its scoring methods. “I’m very confident in the accuracy of what we’ve done,” she said.

Math persists as the biggest hurdle across the board. Passing rates in reading and writing continue to rise more rapidly, even though those scores already were higher to start with.

Statewide, high school passing rates went up 9 percentage points in reading; up 14.5 points in writing; and up 3.5 points in math.

State Superintendent Terry Bergeson said the WASL scores reflect a national struggle to overcome denial about the importance of math for every student.

Requiring the math test for a diploma will be a hot topic this fall among state leaders, she said.

Bergeson said she doesn’t believe in removing the requirement, but could see extending a hand to teenagers furthest behind by looking instead at their progress.

“We can’t leave kids in the lurch for something we haven’t prepared them for,” Bergeson said.

High school passing rates could get another boost in late October, when the state releases the results of August retakes. In all, 10,000 students retook one or more portions of the exam, 30 percent of those eligible.

Students have two retake opportunities each year on the subjects they miss. And alternative options, such as good grades, could help others who don’t test well.

Sarah Koenig is the education reporter for the Enterprise. Melissa Slager and Eric Stevick are reporters for The Herald in Everett.

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