Graduating seniors here mirrored statewide success
Preliminary scores for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning are out, with 85 percent of students statewide passing the test and the Kent and Tahoma school districts more than keeping pace.
Passing the WASL is now a graduation requirement for students in Washington, starting with the recently graduated class of 2008. The early numbers, released this month, show nearly 95 percent of this year’s graduating seniors passed the WASL in both local districts, while state officials reported in May that 91.4 percent of seniors statewide had met standard.
In addition, 85 percent of 11th-graders statewide passed the WASL by the end of the school year, while 75 percent of 10th-graders passed.
Numbers are based on preliminary results from the latest round of testing in April. More comprehensive results, including for third through eight-graders, will be available at the end of August, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.
Bergeson praised students for their efforts thus far to meet state standards.
“The class of 2008 is well-prepared and has the skills to take that next step in life,” Bergeson said. “Now we want to keep that momentum going.”
Bergeson said there is still “plenty of work to do to keep the next two classes on track. I want to congratulate them on their success so far. I know they’re going to rise to the challenge, just like this year’s graduating class did.”
Kent School District students are mirroring the achievement levels statewide, said Bob Isenberg, director of assessment for the district.
“Preliminary information shows that the number of students in Kent that are meeting standard in reading and writing at grades 9, 10 and 11 are similar to the state’s,” Isenberg said. “The number in math has been higher at the high school level in Kent, and based on preliminary data, we can expect that to be the case.”
Isenberg said an important thing to know the Kent district, with 27,400 students, is the fourth-largest district in the state and has the third-largest number of English Language Learners in the state.
“We have students who are English Language Learners who only have two or three years in the country who are not fluent in English or even their heritage language,” Isenberg said. “That impacts Kent more than anybody. So, that’s one concern.”
Still, students in the Kent district have passed the WASL at slightly higher levels than the rest of the state, with just shy of 95 percent of members of the class of 2008 passing it according to OSPI data.
Like other districts statewide, Kent has made efforts to offer extra help to students, as well as WASL prep classes, among other strategies to get students over the hump.
Another thing the district is working toward is getting more students at the middle-school level into algebra classes so they can tackle more advanced math in high school.
“We’re going to continue what we have already been doing, but have also gone to early identification and targeted interventions,” Isenberg said. “We doubled the number of kids taking algebra in middle school. That kind of thing has a trickle-up effect.”
Now that schools have been working through the challenges of the WASL for a few years, Isenberg said, everyone has started to get the hang of it.
“After you go through the first year, it’s easier to become more purposeful in what you do,” he said. “You’ve got a bit of a better idea how to pace things, and the kids do, too.”
The goal is that when students graduate, Isenberg said, they can read, write and do math.
“What’s important is that the students have the skills that are measured by the WASL,” he said. “Really, the perspective is we really want to make sure they have a clear understanding in reading, writing, math and soon science, and the WASL is how we measure that now.”
In the Tahoma School District, Dawn Wakeley, associate director of teaching and learning, said high academic standards prepared kids well for the high-stakes exam given every April.
“For us, what we’re doing, the data shows that it’s working for us,” Wakeley said. She anticipates that the final results for the class of 2008 will show a high passage rate when they are released for all districts in late August.
“We won’t have many students, but we’ll have a few, who haven’t passed as seniors next year,” Wakeley said. “We certainly have classes in place for those students. Our teachers are really highly skilled and have a wonderful success record for helping kids get to standard.”
Most of the Tahoma students who will be seniors this fall have passed the reading and writing sections of the WASL, and Wakeley expects the final number to be well over 90 percent.
And for those who just completed 10th grade and took the test for the first time this just-finished school year, the trend continues.
“For students who have met standard, which for us if we’re talking about just reading and writing, we’re going to be close to 90 percent or above at the 10th-grade level,” Wakeley said. “We’re getting a lot of kids to standard” on the first attempt.
For Tahoma officials, the WASL is one piece of the puzzle rather than the focus of its curriculum, according to district spokesman Kevin Patterson.
“Some of it has to do with the standards we already had in place,” Patterson said. “This is just kind of a natural extension of what we were already doing. That’s a key point we keep trying to explain to people: The WASL isn’t the end-all for this district. It’s part of what we do but not the focus of what we do.”
Wakeley said the WASL helped the district find new approaches as it has worked to integrate the test into its overall educational goals.
“A positive result of the WASL for us is the focus on students who might struggle in school,” Wakeley said. “The WASL has certainly provided a lens to look through to really think about each individual student and what their needs are and how to best support the students in their learning. That’s been good for the students in our district and for the students in our state.”
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and firstname.lastname@example.org