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

Third grade

4Reading             71.3 percent

4Math                  66.3 percent

Fourth grade

4Reading            73.5 percent

4Math                  52.3 percent

4Writing             60.3 percent

Fifth grade

4Reading            73.9 percent

4Math                 61.9 percent

4Science             44.9 percent

Sixth grade

4Reading           72 percent

4Math                 50.9 percent

Seventh grade

4Reading           59.3 percent

4Math                 51.8 percent

4Writing            69.7 percent

Eighth grade

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

Third grade

4Reading           87.7 percent            85.9 percent            85 percent

4Math                 84.6 percent            83.2 percent            86.3 percent

Fourth grade

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

Fifth grade

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

Sixth grade

4Reading           81.7 percent            79.1 percent            83.6 percent

4Math                 72.8 percent            68.9 percent            79.5 percent

Seventh grade

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

Eighth grade

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 Comment on this story at

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