Federal Way's WASL results: Good, bad and ugly

Recently released Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores in the Federal Way School District rose or declined slightly in some areas — but overall, remained nearly level with the previous year’s scores.

“Test scores have

(reached a plateau) somewhat and that’s not just in this district. They’re seeing that across the districts,” said Deb Stenberg, Federal Way School District spokeswoman.

However, due to changes in the method used by the federal government to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the district did not make AYP for the 2007-2008 school year. None of the district’s secondary schools, except for the Federal Way Public Academy, made AYP. About half of the district’s elementary schools made AYP.

Federal Way was one of 57 districts throughout the state to not make AYP last year. The number nearly doubled from the previous year with the new method used to calculate AYP.

This year, the minimum score to make AYP was significantly raised. Also, scores from smaller groups of students were measured.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools are measured in 37 categories of achievement. If a school misses the gaol in one category, the school fails to meet AYP. More than 600 secondary schools throughout the state missed the mark last year.

“If you look at the scores of districts around us and districts with similar demographics, we’re doing pretty well,” Stenberg said.

Many schools throughout the state and in Federal Way did not meet AYP in just a few of the categories.

At Federal Way High School, the school fell behind in two of the AYP categories — Hispanic math scores and special education math scores — because of circumstances involving three students.

In the Hispanic math participation category, a student who arrived and enrolled in school three days before WASL testing did not participate in the test. The state ruled he should have. In the special education math participation category, two students were suspended for fighting on the morning of the test, and the district was forced to invalidate their tests.

All other AYP categories at Federal Way were met.

Federal Way is the most diverse high school in the district and administrators pride themselves on academic success there. District officials appealed the AYP results, Stenberg said. The State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction did not grant the appeals.

Schools and districts that are marked as needing improvement could be given a variety of consequences if they don’t make AYP for two or more years. The Federal Way School District is currently on the “needs improvement list” because this is the second consecutive year the district has not made AYP.

The Federal Way School District is currently taking required steps to improve its AYP status. The district has organized a committee to examine the scores and discuss how to improve them.

The district also created a new professional development department with the goal of increasing the number of instructional coaches for elementary and middle schools. There will also be additional English Language Learners teachers.

Terry Bergeson, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a press release that the federal AYP results fail to recognize areas where schools have made tremendous improvement and instead focus too much on where schools underperformed, even if only in one category.

“There is wonderful, heroic work going on in our schools,” Bergeson said. “I want parents and other members of our communities to know that they should look far beyond a school’s AYP status to determine the real quality of education that is being delivered there.”

Contact Margo Hoffman: or (253) 925-5565.

For more information or to view recently released WASL scores, visit

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