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Island students score big again on WASLs

BHS sophomores top their rivals at Mercer Island in the statewide testing.

Bainbridge High School tenth-grade students topped all other state schools in Washington Assessment of Student Learning testing.

Scores released by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show BHS students excelled in all three portions of the standardized test, including reading, writing and mathematics.

Those areas were passed by 97 percent, 97.3 percent and 85 percent, respectively, of Bainbridge High School students.

BHS topped academic rivals Mercer Island in the WASL standings, which pleased Ken Crawford, Superintendent of the Bainbridge Island School District.

“We outperformed Mercer Island, and you always like to compare yourself against the other highest performing school system,” he said.

“Of course, I have to be quietly proud of the fact that we outperformed all the other school systems statewide for the 10th grade WASL, which is the truly important level.”

The only sour note was the falling achievement on the science portion of the WASL. BHS students passed that portion at only 67.7 percent, easily topped by Mercer Island’s state-leading score of 81 percent, but exceeding the state average of 36.3 percent.

“We certainly continue to be pleased with the performance of our students, particularly in the areas in reading and writing,” Deputy Superintendent Faith Chapel said. “We’re going to want to continue to look at science in grade 10.”

The science portion of the WASL, as well as mathematics, will not count as a graduation requirement until 2013.

“The science test is still under development,” Crawford said. “We don’t believe it to be a good instrument at this time, as do a lot of people. The development that was put into reading, writing and mathematics in year’s past is currently what science is undergoing right now.”

Last year, the Bainbridge School District implemented a new science curriculum which Crawford described as a “radical adjustment.” School officials hope the move will boost interest and achievement in science.

“It adjusts how we are teaching science at all levels but in particular middle and high school,” Crawford said. “We have new materials, it’s more paticipatory, more practical in its application, less text book and lecture driven and more experiential.”

“We also believe that continuous efforts to review curricula and provide professional development for teachers contributed to improvements seen in district scores,” Chapel said.

The WASL is a state-wide standards-based assessment that monitors student’s educational progress and counts towards high school graduation requirements. Students were tested over several days this past spring.

The district as a whole continued to rank near the top compared to others in the state, with more island students meeting WASL standards.

Reading scores at all grades continued to reflect strong performance. The greatest progress was in the third grade, with a 9 percent improvement.

Writing scores across the district at grades 4, 7 and 10 were among the highest in the state, with 90 percent of students in grades four and seven, and 97 percent in grade 10 meeting the standard.

Math scores were also competitive, remaining the same or reflecting improvement at most grades. However, there was a slight dip in the percentage of students meeting standard in grades six and ten, according to district officials.

“Overall as we look at our WASL scores across our grade levels, we continue to see some strong performance,” Chapel said. “We’ll continue to focus on improving student learning in a variety of areas, WASL being one of them.”

“It speaks well to the quality of our teachers and the extent to which parents and students are involved in education,” Crawford said.

Although results are promising and praiseworthy, district officials are also pressing the point that WASL scores are not the focal point of education in the district.

“We have to consider the WASL as an important standard to measure our own progress and success,” Chapel said. “But it’s not the sole standard by we are going to improve by.”

Crawford agreed.

“There is so much more to quality education than how our students perform on these tests,” he said. “We try not to focus too much on that, and more on building a well balanced educational experience for kids.”

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