Note: This is the story that will be running in Wednesday’s paper. There will be a more detailed story about Whatcom County data on Sunday, Sept. 5.
Fewer Whatcom County and state fifth grade students met standards on the state reading, math and science tests in the spring than did the previous year.
Results from the new High School Proficiency Exam and the Measurements of Student Progress tests were released Tuesday, Aug. 31, with mixed results.
Statewide, elementary-level students struggled with the reading test, and the number of fifth-grade students passing the tests dropped by 4.5 to 10.9 percentage points. But, the number of seventh and eighth grade students passing each subject increased by as many as 4 percentage points.
But because the tests are new, and the MSP tested students on new math standards, some educators and parents wonder if comparing the scores from 2009 to 2010 is an accurate look at how students are doing.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn said during a press conference that scores can be compared year to year, except for elementary-level math, where the standards became more rigorous.
Despite large decreases in some passing rates, and smaller increases in others, Dorn sees this year as positive.
“With resources taken away from schools, we’ve actually been able to hold our own,” he said, adding that many of those resources have been taken away from struggling students. “I really believe that we’re the very best possible under the circumstances. … I thinkwe’re doing more with less and we’re expecting more out of kids.”
Across the state, the single-largest gain was in tenth-grade science, with the number of students passing the test increasing by 5.9 percentage points. However, only 44.7 percent of students passed the test.
Results from seventh-grade students showed progress when compared to last year, with the number of students passing the reading and math tests increasing by 4 and 3.4 percentage points respectively.
When looking at a single group of students, those that were 7th graders in the 2008-09 school year made the most progress on the reading test. Results released in 2009 indicated a 7th grade slump on the reading test, with less than 60 percent of students passing. As 8th graders, about 69 percent passed.
County scores mirrored state scores in many areas, including the fifth-grade slump. Only one fifth-grade group, Meridian School District’s reading score, made gains over the 2009 test.
The new exams test students in the same four subjects as the WASL – reading, writing, math and science. They’re considered “high-stakes” tests because they are used to determine whether or not schools are meeting standards for the No Child Left Behind Act. Also, starting with the class of 2013, passing the state reading, writing, math and science tests is a graduation requirement.
High school scores, across the state and for most of the county schools, showed a decrease in the number of high school students passing the reading and math test. The math HSPE disappears starting this spring and will be replaced with algebra and geometry tests that are given when a student finishes the class.
About 86 percent of incoming high school seniors across the state have met graduation requirements of passing the state reading and writing tests, and either rpassing the state math test or continuing to take math classes.