School district fails to meet federal progress standards
August 18, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Despite high testing scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam, the Issaquah School District did not meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards this year.
For districts and schools who don’t make federal standards with testing scores, sanctions begin to kick in if the school accepts federal money.
Other districts that didn’t make AYP this year include Renton, Bellevue, Lake Washington, Northshore and Snoqualmie.
Why WASL still matters
Although district students will take the new state Measurements of Student Progress for third through eighth grades and the High School Proficiency Exam this year, the WASL is still a measure of student progress representing last year.
AYP and WASL scores determine how much federal funding districts receive each year and where they have to spend it.
Issaquah students made gains in their WASL scores from the 2007-08 school year to the 2008-09 school year.
“Some skills were up, some skills were down and some pretty much stayed the same. It is interesting, because it did vary by content and by grade level,” said Sharon Manion, director of assessment for the district. “In general, we are pretty pleased, for the most part, with our improvement in math scores, because we’ve been working really hard at that.”
Sixth-grade math and reading scores saw a significant jump this year. In math 79.5 percent of students are passing, up from 68.9 percent last year. In reading, 83.6 percent of students passed, whereas only 79.1 percent passed last year.
However, 10th-grade scores fell. In most cases, students passing dropped by about 3 percent. But in math, only 72.5 percent of students passed this year’s exams versus 80.1 percent the year before.
“We suspect, because of the mixed messages coming out in the media at the time of the last WASL… students didn’t work as hard, because they didn’t think it counted,” Manion said. “But it does. High school tests may have a different name, but they are still going on.”
How AYP works
Students take the WASL to ensure they and their schools are meeting federal requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.
The federal government measures school and district progress by calculating the students’ scores by demographic, income and developmental need for what is called Adequate Yearly Progress.
Schools must meet AYP in 37 categories and districts must meet it in 111. Missing one category means missing AYP. If a school or district doesn’t make AYP in the same categories for a second year, school improvement sanctions go into effect.
The sanctions only apply if a school or district accepts federal Title I money, which helps low-achieving students.
As a whole, the district receives Title I funding, but not all schools do. As of the 2009-10 school year, no high school and no middle school in the Issaquah district will receive Title I funding.
Of 23 schools, 10 did not make AYP for the 2008-09 testing cycle.
Those schools are Cascade Ridge, Clark, Grand Ridge, Issaquah Valley and Sunny Hills elementary schools; Beaver Lake, Issaquah and Maywood middle schools; and Issaquah and Tiger Mountain Community high schools.
Last year, Issaquah Valley Elementary School; Beaver Lake, Issaquah, Maywood and Pine Lake middle schools; and Tiger Mountain and Liberty high schools didn’t make AYP.
Pine Lake and Liberty were able to make AYP this year, Manion said.
Calling for reform
With increasing standards and the need to meet the 2014 deadline of getting all students — despite their individual needs — to pass the test, it will become harder for districts and schools to meet AYP.
Federal sanctions for schools that haven’t made AYP for two years in a row in the same category include granting transfer requests to students to go to other schools and forcing districts to use that Title I money to allocate funding for those students’ transportation.
Therein lay two problems for Issaquah.
By granting the requests, dollars are moving from one school that needs them to another with the same programs. It also leaves Pine Lake as the only option for students from three schools to transfer to.
The second problem is schools have to use their Title I funding, typically used to fund additional courses or programs in math and reading, for transportation of those students who want to go to another school.
To help avoid federal sanctions and the diversion of resources, district officials have decided to pull federal Title I funds from middle school budgets, said Sara Niegowski, district communications director.
“We don’t think the best use of those funds is to pull those dollars from the classroom to administrative areas, like transportation,” she said.
It is something the district has done in the high schools and many other districts throughout the state have done with their middle schools, she said.
Though Issaquah Valley has not made AYP in two years, the areas in which they haven’t made AYP are different. Therefore, there won’t be federal sanctions this year.
District elementary schools will now receive the Title I funding and district officials will use state funding, that doesn’t come with the AYP sanctions, to back fill middle school budgets.
Because the federal law is so punitive to districts, many educators throughout the state and nation are calling for reform.
“I hope that no person in our school community takes the AYP designations as a realistic measure of the high-quality learning that is occurring in our schools,” Issaquah School District’s Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said. “While a terrific indicator of those areas that we must improve in our system, AYP has some significant flaws that create a no-win situation for schools and students.”
What to know
Not all grades take each of the four WASL sections each year. Most grades only take two or three of the assessments each year, with the exception of 10th-graders, who take each of the four assessments.
2008-09 state results of students who passed the spring WASL exams
4Reading 71.3 percent
4Math 66.3 percent
4Reading 73.5 percent
4Math 52.3 percent
4Writing 60.3 percent
4Reading 73.9 percent
4Math 61.9 percent
4Science 44.9 percent
4Reading 72 percent
4Math 50.9 percent
4Reading 59.3 percent
4Math 51.8 percent
4Writing 69.7 percent
4Reading 67.5 percent
4Math 50.8 percent
4Science 51.1 percent
10th grade (includes students from the classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011)
4Reading 80.9 percent
4Math 45.2 percent
4Writing 86.3 percent
4Science 38.6 percent
Issaquah results 2007 2008 2009
4Reading 87.7 percent 85.9 percent 85 percent
4Math 84.6 percent 83.2 percent 86.3 percent
4Reading 85 percent 84.5 percent 84.2 percent
4Math 77.8 percent 77.0 percent 77.8 percent
4Writing 79 percent 80.9 percent 75 percent
4Reading 81.7 percent 85.5 percent 86.7 percent
4Math 78 percent 84.4 percent 82.9 percent
4Science 64.7 percent 69.5 percent 70 percent
4Reading 81.7 percent 79.1 percent 83.6 percent
4Math 72.8 percent 68.9 percent 79.5 percent
4Reading 80 percent 82.1 percent 73.6 percent
4Math 75 percent 75.2 percent 76.8 percent
4Writing 86.9 percent 91.0 percent 87.6 percent
4Reading 77.5 percent 81.4 percent 81.1 percent
4Math 68.5 percent 72.6 percent 77.7 percent
4Science 73.3 percent 79.6 percent 81.2 percent
10th grade (includes students from both the class of 2009, 2010 and 2011)
4Reading 92.5 percent 94.1 percent 93 percent
4Math 74.8 percent 80.1 percent 72.5 percent
4Writing 94.7 percent 96.5 percent 94.5 percent
4Science 54.9 percent 69.6 percent 66 percent
Who didn’t make AYP?
4Issaquah School District: did not make AYP for the second year among its elementary special-education students in reading and math; elementary low-income students in reading; and middle-school special-education students in reading and math
4Cascade Ridge Elementary School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in reading
4Clark Elementary School: did not make AYP among its low-income students in reading and math
4Grand Ridge Elementary School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in reading and math
4Issaquah Valley Elementary School: did not make AYP among its low-income students in reading
4Sunny Hills Elementary School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in reading
4Beaver Lake Middle School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in math
4Issaquah Middle School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in reading and math and low-income students in reading
4Maywood Middle School: did not make AYP among its special-education students in reading and math
4Issaquah High School: did not make AYP among its low-income students in math
4Tiger Mountain Community High School: did not make AYP in the on-time graduation cell, expected because it is the district’s alternative high school, designed to help students who are behind in credits make them up
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.