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WASL math scores, seventh-grade slump troubling in Federal Way

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

After a report on Federal Way Public Schools’ scores on the state assessment test, School Board members weighed in, saying while students are doing better, there is more to be done.

At last week’s board meeting, Mark Jewel, the school district’s academic officer, broke down the scores in reading, math, writing and science for the boardmembers. Students in fourth, seventh and 10th grades take the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) each spring, and results are returned in the fall.

Overall, Federal Way students did better than the state average in all tests and all grades but 10th grade math.

While the overall results are good, the board is concerned about some grades and test subjects.

There is a slump in seventh grade, board member Ed Barney said. While more than 80 percent of fourth-grade students met the state standard, their middle school peers didn’t score as well on the exam. Barney didn’t have any notions what causes the difference in scores.

The test scores in math at all grades were a concern to board members. Charles Hoff noted the score for seventh grade math was better than in 2003, but he said he’s worried about future tests determining graduation and math being the lone obstacle.

“We can’t run on the increments that we’re seeing right now,” Hoff said.

Starting with the class of 2008 –– this year’s high school freshmen –– students will have to meet the state achievement levels on the reading, writing and math portions of the exam as sophomores to graduate. If they fail one or more portions, they can re-take those test areas multiple times to graduate.

Barney’s hopeful for younger grades, especially those who have been taking the WASL exams since they were in elementary schools. Comparing the students who took the fourth grade WASL with their results as seventh graders showed good improvement –– around 10 percent.

Barney doesn’t think a change by the state in the scoring method of the test dramatically altered the results to make them look better, especially since the sophomore math score went down from last year.

Board member Bob Millen said he’s also concerned about the math scores but is also pleased with the outcome of the reading scores.

If changes need to happen, Barney, Hoff and board member Evelyn Castellar suggested parents who aren’t involved now should become active in their students’ educations.

Hoff said the district needs to convince parents and students that the WASL “is for real.” Then there will probably be better results on the exam, he said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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