School test results mixed on Twin Harbors


Schools on the Twin Harbors reported mixed results as standardized test passing rates for 2013-14 were released Wednesday by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

MSP or Measurement of Student Progress tests are taken at all levels except at the high school. The 10th graders take the HSPE (High School Proficiency Exam).

This year’s test results carry a bit more weight, since the U.S. Department of Education refused to renew Washington State’s waiver from some of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the reporting of “adequate yearly progress.” Without the waiver, schools could be forced to divert some of their federal Title 1 funding to specific programs prescribed by the law if they don’t make adequate yearly progress, taking those funds away from other programs. Title 1 funding supports low-income students.

According to the OSPI, of 295 school districts in the state, just 22 met the adequate yearly progress requirement. At the school level, just 260, out of more than 2,100 elementary, middle and high schools statewide, made adequate yearly progress.

Many Harbor districts and individual schools are in some level of “school improvement” under the law due to not making adequate yearly progress.

Missing from today’s MSP test results release were Aberdeen, Cosmopolis, Montesano and McCleary school districts, who participated in field testing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The results of the field test were not compiled and released, so those districts do not have test results for the elementary and middle-school grades that took the new assessment.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is working to develop the new test that is in line with so-called “common core” standards in English, language arts and math.

Though the Legislature has yet to finalize all the details, the plan is for Smarter Balanced tests to replace the reading and writing portions of the MSP for this school year. High school juniors will also take a Smarter Balanced test, but it will not be a graduation requirement until the Class of 2019, according to the OSPI. Currently, high school sophomores must pass the HSPE to graduate.

Hoquiam

Hoquiam Superintendent Mike Parker noted the mixed results in his district. “we’ve been busy, boy, we have been busy over the past many years with the purpose of wanting to improve and doing all we can to improve.”

The HSPE scores in reading and and writing did drop slightly to 82 percent and 83 percent respectively. “Kids are all different aren’t they?” Parker said. The high school had “really good groups” that scoreD in the 90s a year or two ago, he said.

“We are not where we want to be, but we are not disappointed either,” Parker added. The scores were competitive, he added.

The 9th grade showed some gains and “we have been working hard with our middle school,” where an OSPI coach has been working with the principal and teachers, he said. The students benefited from that work. “We are on the right track there,” he said. “We didn’t quite see the gain we want” in 6th and 7th grade, he said.

Skill groups, where students of like abilities are grouped together, are helping in elementary ages, he added.

Scores dropped in math and writing for 4th and 5th grade, and Parker said OSPI coaching will be added to Central Elementary to help it meet yearly progress this year.

The staff met Tuesday to emphasize personalizing teaching so that each student feels they have an adult advocate, Parker said.

“We have to be prepared to dig deep to reverse the trend at Central,” he said.

“We don’t want any students to fall through the cracks,” he said. “It’s not realistic that 100 percent of the kids meet reading and math standards.”

Part of the challenge is that students with special needs such as fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities, or “social and emotional deficits” are expected to do as well and judged in comparison to other students, he said.

That is the “challenge across all of our schools, we have got to focus and find a way to move those kids higher and we are doing that in middle school,” he said.

Aberdeen and other districts

Aberdeen’s only reported scores — its 10th-grade scores — were higher than last year and close to the state average.

Montesano’s reported scores showed optimistic trends. All of the district’s scores in the 7th, 8th and 10th grades were up except for math in the 7th and writing in the 10th grade.

Pacific County schools had some good news to report, as well. Tenth-graders in Raymond outdid the state average in writing, though they dropped in reading. Willapa Valley 10th-graders scored higher than the state average in both reading and writing.

Elementary students in the Wishkah Valley also did well, particularly in 4th grade where math and writing scores hit the 90th percentile, though reading dropped below 60 percent.

Ocosta Schools reported increases in virtually every grade and every category except the 5th grade, which fell in reading and math. Seventh-graders reported lower math scores, as did 4th-graders.

“We were very happy with the results, we are still analyzing them,” Ocosta Superintendent Dr. Paula Akerlund said. “We are actually looking at what our strategies for even hopefully strengthening our scores are … yeah, we were pretty pleased.”

Unlike Hoquiam, Ocosta did not have to send a letter to parents saying they have failing schools.

“We are one of those districts that did not fail, we had certain subgroups where we did not make AYP overall results (but) we did not have to send a letter to parents saying we were ‘failing schools.’ ”

With the changes next year to standardized tests and the move to common core, Ocosta is in the same boat as most everyone else. “We are just looking at all that right now,” she said.

 

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