SK schools test slightly above state average

Results from the initial Measurement of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exam indicate students within the South Kitsap School District are performing slightly better than the state average.

Among the 20 categories assessed in math, reading, science and writing, SKSD’s students outperformed their peers across the state in 11 areas, while they trailed in eight.

The district’s fifth-grade science numbers matched the state average.

The results were even better from a national standpoint where SKSD students were only below average in fifth-grade science (34 percent), and 10th-grade math (39.5 percent) and science (43.2 percent). All percentages are based on how students compare with the national average.

Most of the positive results in the district came at the elementary-school level, where its students beat their state counterparts in nine of the 10 listed categories.

“I think probably the biggest thing is the focus and intensity of the professional development they are receiving,” said SKSD deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner, adding that collaboration between teachers also is significant in the successful elementary-school results.

The scores in the six junior-high categories all were below the state average, but none fell beneath the national mean. They ranged from 51.5 percent in eighth-grade math to 70.2 percent in seventh-grade writing.

At South Kitsap High School, sophomores scored better than average at both the state and national level in reading (81.8 percent) and writing (90.6 percent). They fared worse than average compared with the state and nation in math (39.5 percent) and science (43.2 percent).

Wagner cautioned that results for students should not necessarily be a reflection of their current teachers. For example, he said junior-high teachers should receive a significant amount of credit for the high writing scores for sophomores.

That also applies to areas where students fell below the state average. Wagner said there likely will be coordinated professional development for fifth- and sixth-grade instructors to help buoy the seventh-grade writing scores.

Among the four MSP and HSPE subjects, SKSD students performed the poorest in science with only fifth graders meeting the state average. Among the three grade levels where science is assessed, eighth graders (50.6 percent) were the only ones who exceeded the national average.

“The programs are kit-based with a lot of experiments, forming hypotheses and observational data collecting,” Wagner said. “Then seeing if your hypothesis has been confirmed or refuted. One thing the program really lends itself is journaling.”

Wagner said that program lends itself to improving the writing skills of students in addition to achieving better results on tests. He said the assessment focuses more on the scientific process than recounting facts.

“We have to get more process oriented with our science lessons,” Wagner said. “Kids need to be involved in experiments.”

Math scores all were better than 62 percent in the elementary school, but fell to average at the junior highs before dipping to 39.5 percent in 10th grade. Wagner speculates that some of that might be a cultural issue where, he said, many people feel it is acceptable to be adequate at math, but nothing more. He said that hinders the ability of those parents to assist their children as they reach higher grade levels.

One problem area for the district has been special education, where it has been sanctioned for failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress. Burley Glenwood Elementary School was evaluated in 37 different areas and only did not meet AYP this year in special-education reading. But that distinction means that Burley Glenwood, along with Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen, are regarded as “failing” schools from a national standpoint and students at those elementary schools were allowed to transfer to other campuses in the district.

It is that language that drew the ire of school-board president Kathryn Simpson at an Aug. 25 meeting.

“Burley Glenwood is a great school,” she said. “We are calling it a failing school based on definition. It’s name-calling and labeling that’s completely inappropriate.”

Wagner said treating special-education students as a subgroup presents challenges because once one improves their scores, they no longer are tested with the rest of the student body.

“There are virtually no districts that have made AYP because there are all those cells that you are accountable for,” he said.

But Wagner said special education is a significant portion of SKSD’s improvement plan. They now have joint-training sessions where special education and other teachers collaborate. For math, there are interactive games, while special-education students no longer leave the classroom during reading time for enrichment. Instead, Wagner said they remain in the classroom and then leave later during social studies to receive a “second dose” of reading.

• SKSD’s board of directors formally adopted policy governance last week. Through this operations model, a district’s board of directors consults the community to establish “ends,” or long-term, detailed policies for its schools.

The Policy Governance concept was developed by John Carver to help board of directors to decide on “ends” rather than “means” to achieve its goals.

It also establishes limitations on managerial “means” for its chief executive — superintendent Dave LaRose in SKSD — and delegates achieving its ends to him.

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