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With 50 percent passing, sophomores score 'better than expected' on WASL

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Preliminary results indicate more than 50 percent of sophomores in Federal Way Public Schools passed the three sections of the state assessment test that is required to earn their diplomas.

The results from the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was “a little better than he was expecting,” Superintendent Tom Murphy said through a spokeswoman.

Reading and writing scores for Federal Way 10th-graders jumped significantly compared to last year. The math score gained modestly, but still lagged behind the other two subjects.

Murphy expressed concern about the disparity on Thursday.

“I am extremely pleased with the progress that our students have made in reading and writing and equally concerned (with math). As of yet, we’ve not seen the same percentage of students meeting math standards as reading and writing,” Murphy said in a statement.

About 52 percent of the sophomores — or 749 — passed all three sections of the test. Students who do not pass one or more sections will have four more opportunities to retake them.

The first re-take exam is in August.

District officials estimated about 650 students need remedial assistance in one or more of the subject areas.

They also estimated about 260 are within a few points of passing all three sections.

While 79.2 percent of last year’s sophomores in Federal Way met or exceeded the state standard in reading, the preliminary result for this year’s crop is that 89 percent passed.

In writing, 86 percent of this year’s sophomores met or exceeded the standard, while last year the total was 74.5 percent.

Sophomores made the smallest gain in math, as 56 percent met or exceeded the standard this year. In 2005, 51.1 percent passed.

The school district released the sophomores’ preliminary results of the WASL on Thursday after the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released early results for sophomores statewide.

The state did not release any data showing how many sophomores passed all three sections of the test. Final results are expected in early September after districts and the state cull the results for errors.

Statewide results for sophomores saw a strong increase in those passing the reading and writing portions of the WASL. But the number passing the math section, while improved, still has a way to go, according to the state’s top educator.

About 86 percent of the state’s sophomores met or exceeded the standard in reading compared to almost 73 percent in 2005.

In 2005, 65.2 percent met the standard or exceeded it in writing, while this year the total jumped to 84 percent.

Like Federal Way, the state saw its smallest increase in math with 54 percent of the 10th-graders passing, but ahead of 2005’s 47.5 percent.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson was happy with the reading and writing scores, but noted the math results proved the state needed to focus on the subject.

“In spite of the motivation provided by the graduation requirement, many, many students still struggle with mathematics. We must face these results squarely and accelerate our efforts to teach kids the mathematics they need,” Bergeson said in a statement.

Federal Way Public Schools will send test results to parents of sophomores, and district educators will call parents whose children scored particularly low in one or more test sections to make sure parents understand the results and know what options their children have, said Diane Turner, the district’s director of communication.

The state Legislature approved funding in its last session to the tune of $28.5 million to help school districts pay for extra classes in the summer for struggling students.

Federal Way is offering several programs from its traditional tuition-based summer school and the Internet Academy to its Promoting Academic Success (PASS) course for students who were only a few points from meeting standard, Turner said.

The district is also partnering with DeVry University in a summer program to help students who scored low on the math section of the WASL.

The district is also working with the private Sylvan Learning Center on a pilot program taking 10 sophomores who scored low on the math test.

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

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