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School district reviews testing practices and student data

Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) now has its first batch of data to establish a baseline for future direction, according to Dave Davis, director of assessment for the district.

Davis gave an update to the school board Nov. 13, saying the establishment of that baseline is a big step in having a clearer picture of where student achievement in the district stands.

Davis also discussed the "Ends" policy that FWPS follows when talking about student achievement. The specific End that relates to student achievement is Ends 2 (E2).

"Each student at every grade level will perform at or above the state or district standard in all disciplines. Each student's progress shall be measured annually by academic growth," Davis said, citing the district's policy word for word. "This is the culmination of several work studies, several meetings, to look at E2 compliance."

In 2012, there were 153,307 assessments of one kind or another given in the district, Davis said. According to data provided by Davis in his presentation (and found at www.fwps.org), FWPS spent $113,855 on in-district testing in 2012. The district spent $363,477 on state testing and $364,164 on advanced programs testing. According to Davis, that large figure of assessments isn't unexpected.

"A district this size, it isn't uncommon," he said.

One of the big reasons for the implementation of Standards Based Education (SBE) and Standards Based Grading (SBG) was to give the district a large, macro-view of where resources need to go to improve student achievement, and also to provide a micro-view for teachers at the classroom level to have an idea of where individual students also need help.

Davis said the first part of this has been achieved  because with the first bit of data from the district under SBE and SBG, that aforementioned baseline has been established.

Davis shared a number of slides in his PowerPoint presentation, showing grade distribution across building by school levels.

For high schools, a large portion of students ended up receiving "A" grades in second semester of last year, with smaller amounts for each successive, lower grade.

At the middle school level, much the same pattern was seen, and the pattern also repeated itself at the elementary level.

"I think this will allow us to do…a comparative analysis for future conversation," Davis said.

Last year, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction applied for a waiver for the state from the No Child Left Behind, and the onerous Adequate Yearly Progress metric that was part of that legislation.

The waiver was granted by the federal government, and this year, Washington state schools will be measured by what's known as Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO).

According to Davis' data, AMO for the third grade needs to improve 14 percent by 2013, and by 8.38 percent in math. Fifth-grade reading needs to improve 3.42 percent and math by 5.53 percent to meet AMO for 2013.

At the eighth-grade level, reading needs to improve 6.45 percent and math 4.7 percent to meet 2013's AMO goals. Finally, for the 10th grade, reading scores need to improve 7.95 percent and math scores by 1.2 percent to meet the new standard.

Another issue Davis touched on was the performance of the "cohort," which is a group that essentially stays within FWPS for their academic career. The data is also encouraging in that regard, Davis said.

"The data suggests when our students stay in our schools, they do quite well for themselves," he said.

Davis did note that students of color are still underperforming, and that this will continue to be a focus point for FWPS.

Another interesting point he brought up was high school students who had to attend summer school to make up for missed credits and other similar issues. Because of SBE and SBG, what they need to make up is much more specific, and allows the students to complete what's needed and move on from summer school much quicker.

"Just to have this information, and not be guessing, so we can have it right in front of us so we can make adjustments, I applaud everyone involved," said board member Danny Peterson.

"I'm very optimistic about what we're going to do next year," said board president Tony Moore. "I am excited to see the gains we'll make, and I'm really excited about closing this (achievement) gap."

 

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