District students score above state average on Washington math tests

September 27, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

As Issaquah School District students headed back to class Aug. 30, state education officials were releasing the first results of a newly required math test.

The state also put out final numbers on which schools were able, or not able, to meet annual improvement goals set out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Last spring, Washington students in algebra and geometry classes took a state test immediately at the end of their course work. The system is known as “end of course,” or “EOC” testing. It replaced the standardized math test students formerly took near the end of the school year.

According to results released by the state, 86 percent of district students taking the EOC test met state algebra standards. The figure was 90.9 percent for the geometry test.

In contrast, the state average was 62 percent on the algebra test and 72 percent on the geometry exam.

“This feels like a big success,” Leslie Nielsen, Issaquah math curriculum specialist, said in a press release. “The EOCs test algebra and geometry at a deep and rigorous level, so our outstanding first-year results indicate a strong alignment between our instruction and the standards.”

Though it still has its critics, Sara Niegowski, district executive director of communications, said the EOC tests are more popular with instructors than the previously used standardized exams. There are a couple of reasons for that popularity, according to Debra Hawkins, the school district’s director of assessment.

Speaking in a release, Hawkins said EOC tests are given closer to the time of instruction. She also noted the tests are very specific in regard to subject matter and can dig deeper into the specific subject matter.

“We see that as a positive step forward,” Niegowski said.

In 2012, the state will replace its broad 10th-grade science exam with an EOC biology assessment, Niegowski added. The state had proposed passage of the biology test be mandatory for high school graduation, but has put off that requirement. Locally, some Issaquah school board members are pushing for the district to come up with science and/or technology assessments of its own and make passage required.

Regarding the controversial No Child Left Behind requirements, 11 district schools failed to meet what the standards call adequate yearly progress.

According to the state, Issaquah district elementary schools failing to meet AYP were Briarwood, Challenger, Clark and Sunset. Middle schools in the same category were Beaver Lake, Issaquah, Maywood and Pacific Cascade. Issaquah, Liberty and Skyline high schools all failed to meet AYP.

Niegowski said tentative results on the AYP measurements were first released earlier this year.

AYP measures a school’s progress in several areas of standardized testing. If a certain level of improvement is not reached in specific areas, a school can be said not to have attained AYP. Niegowski said many educators are critical of AYP because not meeting even one standard can cause a school to be labeled a failure.

For example, Briarwood did not make AYP this year and fell subject to certain federal sanctions. According to Niegowski, the only area the school failed to meet AYP was in reading for special-education students.

Because they failed to meet AYP either this year or last year, both Briarwood and Issaquah Valley Elementary were required to offer parents the option of sending students to other schools. Niegowski said final enrollment numbers for this year aren’t in yet, but no parents had removed children from Issaquah Valley, while perhaps one or two students had been taken out of Briarwood.

Niegowski noted that Issaquah Valley actually met AYP this year, but was required to offer parents a choice for two consecutive school years. While other Issaquah schools did not make AYP, they were not required to offer another school choice largely because they are not federal Title I schools, according to Niegowski. A school is considered a Title I school, if, among other factors, at least 40 percent of the student population is from low-income families.

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