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School district's WASL scores dip

South Kitsap school administrators remained cautiously optimistic but admitted they had a lot of work ahead of them as this year’s WASL scores slipped considerably from last year and each of its junior highs and high school failed to meet progress expectations established with the new federal “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLB) in at least one area.

While students statewide made gains in nearly all categories, the district’s students’ scores fell in four categories — a full third — as its seventh graders’ scores dipped 2 percent in writing and its sophomores slipped in math, reading and listening.

The district’s standout students this year were the fourth graders — responsible for the only dip in scores last year in listening — whose scores increased in all categories, including an 8 percent jump in writing.

Their results also hovered close to the state average in all categories, surpassing it in both reading and listening.

The district’s seventh graders improved in all categories except for a slight dip in writing, and were close to the state average except for that category — six percentage points below — and in listening, above by 3 percent.

The sophomores’ scores slipped in all categories except for writing, but remained significantly ahead of the state average in all categories except for math, where they were only three percentage points behind.

SK’s sophomore writing scores continued their steep rise, gaining another 6 percent, after rising nearly 10 percent last year.

Elementary school standouts included East Port Orchard, whose fourth graders increased their scores in all categories by 6 percent — and by nearly 20 percent in two.

Mullenix Ridge beat the state average by 12 percent in all categories, while Manchester and Olalla’s scores were all better than the average as well.

“We’re pleased overall when comparing ourselves to ourselves,” said Kurt Wagner, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional services. “We have more successes than areas that need improvement.”

This year’s WASL scores are under added scrutiny this year. it is the first time they will be to determined if a school is making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), stipulated under the NCLB act.

If AYP is not reached for two years in a row in the same area, a school will be found “in need of improvement.”

School administrators across the state have expressed concern about many aspects of the new federal legislation, from possible misinterpretation of the terms to whether sanctioning an already struggling school is the answer.

“The positive thing about this law is it forces us to look at special populations we, as a state and a nation, have ignored in the past,” said Linda Munson, director of special programs. “But I’m very concerned about the sanctions — to take a struggling school and take services away (does not make sense).”

All of the South Kitsap’s elementary schools in the district made “adequate yearly progress,” while all three junior highs and the high school did not.

However, out of 37 subgroups of students, including Special Education, Limited Education Proficiency and Low Income, the four secondary schools met the standard in all categories except for Special Education and Low income.

In South Kitsap High School’s case, only one cell did not meet expected progress, which was special ed students in math. (All students, including those determined to be disabled, or special ed, and those with limited English proficiency, are given the same WASL test.)

Of the four schools designated as not meeting AYP, only two — Marcus Whitman and Cedar Heights — accept Title 1 funds and face potential sanctions if they do not make AYP in the same categories next year.

The district as a whole did not make AYP, including one cell in each grade.

Special education and low-income seventh graders fell short in both math and reading, while sophomore special ed students fell short of AYP in both math and reading.

Although all of the individual elementary schools made AYP, the district’s population of low-income fourth graders fell short in math, which Dan Whitford, director of instructional services, said is an example of one of the strengths of the new law — targeting students for help that in other circumstances might have been overlooked.

“It shows that every student who walks through our door counts, and that is what we are working for,” Superintendent Bev Cheney said.

For more information on the district and state WASL results, see: http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us

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