KP schools show WASL scores improvement


Lori Losee, KP News

Key Peninsula schools last year made major strides in the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, and staff and district officials are looking at ways to assist schools to improve even more.

“We were probably a little disappointed in this year’s scores (for the whole school district), but I am proud of the progress that we have made and the trend the last four or five years showing a steady upward growth,” Peninsula School District Superintendent Terry Bouck said.

Bouck added that this one-year dip allows the district to step back and analyze the scores, and that is where the district’s Director of Research and Assessment Amy Nelson comes in.

A sample of local schools' 2005 scores.

Elementary schools

Evergreen Elementary third-graders scored the highest of all three KP schools in reading and math. Vaughn Elementary saw improvement across the board, with scores higher than state and district averages in fourth-grade reading and writing as well as fifth-grade reading. Minter Creek’s fourth graders also scored higher than the state average in reading, writing and math while fifth-graders’ reading and math scores surpassed state averages.

This was the first time statewide that third-graders and fifth-graders were given the exam, which consisted of a reading and math section.

At the fifth grade level, this was only the third year for the science WASL section.

“(Science) is relatively new and we are getting our teachers trained on a different way to approach this portion of the WASL because it differs from the district’s (science) curriculum,” Nelson said.

Even before Evergreen Elementary School Principal Jacque Crisman received her school’s WASL scores, she knew what the scores were going to be within 5 percent, thanks to the monthly assessments the school does.

“We noticed that there was a dip in our schools scores and we will look at specifically how to help our students next year in those areas,” she said. “With that said, growth does not always happen in a straight line.

“What we also noticed (is) that if we look at a trend line over time … our school continues to improve. We are proud of our students and teachers. We recognize how hard they work and appreciate their efforts.”

Nelson said because Evergreen has such a low testing population, scores fluctuate from year to year and are sometimes hard to analyze.

“It is hard to define trends,” she said. “But the great thing at Evergreen is that rather than focusing on the overall school’s scores, they focus on students who didn’t meet standards.”

Crisman said each year the school staff looks at the previous year’s scores for individual students. Staff then create plans and addresses deficits.

“For students that we targeted, we saw growth,” she said. “We are very proud of our students who we worked extra hard with to make individual growth.”

This school year, Evergreen has four goals; math, reading, writing and climate. “One goal we are focusing specifically on is math,” Crisman said. “As a school we have planned time for our teachers to really focus on math instruction and best practices.  We are also looking at our shortcomings on the WASL and addressing those areas.”


Key Peninsula Middle School

After seeing a huge increase in scores in 2005, Key Peninsula Middle School’s seventh-graders showed the most improvement in reading scores, which were higher than the state’s scores.

KPMS Principal Sharon Shaffer sees her school’s WASL scores on an upward trend.

“We have continued to show growth in student achievement over time,” she said. “We like to view the results over a period of time, so that we can track our trends.”

Nelson said that because the school saw such a huge bump last year in math, school and district officials expected scores to dip.

Shaffer added that with the recent adoption of SpringBoard in school’s literacy blocks, she expects the upward trend to continue in the area of reading.

“A strong student achievement focus for us at KPMS is in math,” she said. “While we have made significant growth, we still have plenty of work to do.

“Across the state, student achievement in math has been a challenge. That is true for us here at KPMS as well. We take seriously the challenge of continuous and positive gains in achievement for all of our students.”

“At KPMS, they have done an excellent job,” Superintendent Bouck said. “The staff continues to raise the bar and find ways of intervention with struggling students.”

Bouck said as a way to reward the hard work of the staff, the district is providing additional assistance to the school to help review and analyze test data and compile the results of a survey of staff, students and parents. Funding is being provided by voter-approved Initiative 728. The assistance will also be used to help teachers and the staff for extra planning time and to collaborate as teams to focus on areas of improvement.

Peninsula High School

Nelson said one area where the district expected to see a bump in scores was the math section for 10th-graders.

“We did see an increase, but not the 10 percent bump we expected, like we saw in reading and writing,” she said. “Our (math scores) continue to go up with our math aligned curriculum, but we will just have to dig a little deeper into the results.”

Nelson said one reason why there was such an increase in scores at the 10th grade level at both the district and state levels was because students saw the WASL as a graduation requirement and not as an optional test.

At Peninsula High School, as at all other public high schools across the state, last year’s WASL held high stakes for the first time for 10th graders. Last year’s 10th graders will be the first class for whom passing the WASL is a high school graduation requirement.

The school’s 10th-grade scores were higher than state scores in reading, math, writing and science (42 percent). The school’s science score was also higher than the district’s score.

Nelson said that at PHS, 44.5 percent of 10th-graders who took the test last spring met standard in all three graduation requirement areas (reading, writing and mathematics). By comparison, at Gig Harbor High School, 57.8 percent of the 10th-graders met standard in all three areas.

Nelson cautioned, however, that those numbers are not exact because of three reasons: Special education students who took an alternative method were not part of these total numbers, and PHS had several students who took these alternative lower level assessments; ninth-graders who elect to take the test early are not included in these numbers; and students who retook the assessment in August are not included in these numbers.

Tenth-grade students are allowed to take up to five retakes at the district’s expense. The first of these retakes was offered in August, and scores are expected in the next few weeks. Students only have to retake the sections in which they fail.

If students fail the WASL after the second time, they have three alternatives to the WASL, including using their math SAT score, be a part of a GPA cohort group, or build a portfolio of their work that best represents the standards in the math, reading and writing sections.

Overall, all five Key Pen schools including Peninsula High showed growth over the past year in at least one section of the WASL.

“The best news is that this district has done a wonderful job of improvement,” Bouck said. “We’ve always focused on continuous improvement and focus on struggling students and find ways of intervention to assist students to succeed.

“The WASL isn’t everything. In this district, we look at a lot of things including the whole child and what we can do to maximize their talents.”