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State test results are a mixed bag for Federal Way schools

State testing results, which includes Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) and End-of-Course exams (EOC), were released by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction earlier this week.

For Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS), the results were a mixed bag of hits and misses. Considering the tumultuous nature of the 2011-12 school year in Federal Way, Federal Way Superintendent Rob Neu was still encouraged by the results.

"In spite of a challenging change process, our staff and students performed well and they are to be commended," Neu said.

Perhaps the most significant change that occurred within FWPS last year was the monumental shift to Standards Based Grading and Standards Based Education. According to the district, the shift was done to create a more equitable grading system, and also to provide sharper and clearer data about student performance.

While there was some uproar at the beginning of the school year, eventually the dust settled. Students and parents alike learned the ins and outs of the new system.

District Assessment Director Dave Davis said that major test scores like the state tests are expected to drop during years that experience such a large change.

Regardless, Davis said Federal Way students acquitted themselves well even with the drastic shift.

"Federal Way students have more than held their own," he said.

According to the district, 4th-, 5th- and 7th-grade reading scores were up across the district, while 5th-, 7th- and 8th-grade math scores also showed an upward trend.

Seventh-grade students showed strong gains as well, jumping nearly 11 percentile points in reading and six points in math.

For the district's high school students, the trend upward occurred mostly in math. Math scores, which are determined by the aforementioned EOC exams, showed a gain of two percentile points for students taking the tests for the first time, while second-year End-of-Course (EOC) exams scores were up nearly six points.

Along with the uptick in math scores, science scores on EOCs were also up by eight percentile points. The district notes that last year was the first year that science was assessed through EOCs, and believes that may be why the uptick occurred.

One of the areas that saw students taking a step backward was in reading and writing scores at the high school level. However, the district notes that FWPS was in line with the statewide trend of slightly lower reading and writing scores for high school students.

"We made sweeping changes last year because we believe equity and excellence are more than empty words," Neu said. "Now, we have more work to do. These results are our new baseline from which we will direct our work. We will continue relentless pursuit of academic success for each child while meeting the needs of the whole child."

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