Good and bad news in WASL results


Staff writer

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson, released the state’s WASL test scores last Thursday, and although the Federal Way school district is making steady gains, there’s also room for improvement.

First, the good news. Federal Way showed improvement in 2002-03 school year over the previous school year in almost all WASL categories and in almost all grades.

In the reading category, 72.6 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded the state standards, up from 71.6 percent the year before. Seventh graders — 53.6 percent of them — met or exceeded the reading standard, up from 48.2 percent. Tenth-graders also improved, with 65 percent meeting standard, compared to 61.7 percent in 2001-02.

Math scores fared best in the district. Sixty-one percent of fourth-graders met the standard, up from 55.6 percent last year. And 38.6 percent of seventh-graders met or exceeded math standards, up from 32.5 percent the previous year. For 10th-graders, 43.2 percent met math standards, up from 35.4 percent.

But writing scores reflected a decrease in performance for seventh-graders; 58.6 percent met or exceeded standards, down from 63.8. At the fourth-grade level, 56.7 percent met writing standards compared with 53.2 percent last year. Students in 10th grade showed an improvement, as well –– 69.2 percent of students met standards, up from 56.4 percent.

“To say we’re proud of our students and staff is an understatement,” district superintendent Tom Murphy said. “These scores are a testament to the hard work and focused attention our staff at all grade levels are providing.”

Eighty percent of Federal Way schools attained the state’s strict Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) qualifications.

The WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) is the official yardstick by which student progress is measured. The topics encompass reading, math, writing and listening. Student progress is measured under the regulations of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the ESEA regulations, a school is considered as failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress status if just one of the nine subgroups fail to meet government guidelines in either reading or math.

Here’s a breakdown of the nine subgroups:

• All students.

• American Indian students.

• Asian/Pacific Islander students.

• African-American students.

• Hispanic students.

• White students.

• Students with disabilities.

• “Limited English Proficient” (LEP) students.

• Students from low-Income families.

Now, the bad news.

Schools in Federal Way failed to meet AYP status in:

• Special-education reading. all three grades.

• Special-education math, seventh and 10th grades.

• Bilingual reading, all three grades.

• Bilingual, Math, 4th, 7th and 10th grade.

• African-American students’ reading, 10th grade.

• African-American students’ math, seventh and 10th grades.

• Hispanic students’ reading, 10th grade.

• Hispanic students’ math, 10th grade.

For failing to meet AYP guidelines in those categories, the entire school district is branded as “failing to meet AYP” guidelines.

But less than one-third of the state’s school districts made “adequate yearly progress” status last school year. Only 88 of the 296 districts — or about 30 percent — met AYP standards. Consequently, the state as a whole failed to meet AYP standards.

Districts are required to take corrective actions if their schools continue to fail meeting AYP standards two or more years in a row. Of the 436 state schools failing to meet AYP, 50 of them are in their second year of failing to meet AYP. As a result, 16 schools are in the first step of school improvement. They must meet a school improvement plan and allow their students to opt out and transfer to another school that has met AYP within the same district.

Thirty one state schools are in step two of school improvement. They must offer extra tutoring or similar supplemental education to low-income students, in addition to giving students the option to opt out into a higher performing school.

And four districts are in the third step of school improvement. In addition to offering additional tutoring services and allowing students to opt out, these schools must take additional corrective actions.

The importance of passing the WASL will increase as time passes. Students in the class of 2008 will have to pass the 10th-grade WASL in order to graduate from high school.

Twenty-three other states either already require passing a test like the WASL for high school graduation, or are phasing in graduation requirements tied to passing similar tests. In addition, public state college and university presidents are considering including students’ WASL scores in college admission screenings.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565,

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