WASL scores released for state, district

After the Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores were released last week, Bill Bentley, Sequim School District superintendent, said the results pretty much met expectations.

"I think if you look at the state data and the district data, you see similar trends," Bentley said of the scores for the 2007-2008 school year, which were released Aug. 26.

Those trends include a dip in math scores, something Bentley said faculty and administrators in the district expected and have planned for. Sequim students scored less than 1 percent to 8.4-percent lower than the state average in math in five of the seven grades tested. The third- and 10th-graders scored significantly higher than the state average in math. The fourth- through eighth-graders' scores in math were lower than the district's students in those grades in the 2006-2007 school year.

Each year, students are tested in third through eighth grades and in 10th grade. Each of those grades is tested in reading and math. Fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders also are tested in writing and fifth-, eighth- and 10th graders also are tested in science.

Even before the confirmation of the decline in math scores, Bentley said administrators had planned a math summit for this fall, where district staff and math experts from around the region will gather to talk specifically about the issue.

Part of the problem, Bentley explained, is a change in requirements from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. According to Bentley, the changes call for new and improved standards for math instruction but are sticking to the old assessment tests for at least this year, which can be confusing.

"I expect to see some problems with that," Bentley said. "I think until we have the opportunity to make revisions in assessment as well, we'll be seeing some changes statewide." Sequim students fared better in reading, where district scores were higher than the state average in all grades but seventh, where they were less than a percent lower.

Sequim fourth- and seventh-graders scored as much as 11 percent below the state average in writing but the 10th-graders scored higher. The fifth- and eighth-graders scored significantly higher than the state average in science but the 10th-graders scored lower.

Bentley, who stressed that these scores are preliminary and may change slightly, said it is often difficult to gauge improvement or decline because each year's tests focus on different things. For example, during the 2006-2007 testing, a little more than 71 percent of sixth-graders passed the reading portion of the WASL; in 2007-2008 only a little more than 61 percent of those same students, now seventh-graders, passed.

"It's not likely that that same group all of a sudden became a lot worse at reading," Bentley said. "These kids are taking different tests and that does have some effect."

Bentley said a full analysis of the scores, including "strand data," which breaks down each of the categories into sub-categories, such as math into geometry, algebra and computation, should be complete by the end of October.

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