Bainbridge soars on WASLsStatewide results show island students at the top.

Bainbridge students got high marks on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests - higher than most of their peers around the state.District officials attribute the students' success on the standardized tests to parents who send students to school ready to learn, kids who are motivated, and teachers who are talented.There aren't many districts that can match this district's parent and community support, said Faith Chapel, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and we also have a dedicated set of teachers who work toward aligning curriculum to help students meet standards. Statewide results were released by the Office of Public Instruction this week.Bainbridge seventh graders ranked second among 296 districts in reading, writing and math - just behind Mercer Island - to buck a statewide trend of weak middle school scores. Student progress is continuing, said Terry Bergeson, state superintendent of schools. It was strongest at tenth-grade level but more gradual at the fourth grade. And we're still struggling at the middle school levels, especially in reading and math.Bainbridge tenth graders ranked third in reading and math, fifth in writing and 13th in listening statewide.Bainbridge fourth grade classes ranked 11th in reading, 12th in math, sixth in writing and 14th in listening.According to Bergeson, math scores statewide have leveled off or dipped slightly.That's a trend, reflected in the Bainbridge elementary schools that will be addressed, Chapel says, in the math program review already under way this year. The WASL scores help district administrators to analyze trends in Bainbridge students' performance, Chapel says.We had preliminary WASL data by the end of August, but we didn't know how others had performed, Chapel said, and that's always a valuable perspective, although the major focus is internal.Now we can look at the information about how students performed on various strands of math - like computation and problem-solving.The district will research best practices, and canvass teachers about instructional materials and what they think are the strengths and weaknesses of the program, Chapel said.The mandateThe WASLs are a part of the state's effort to reform education, mandated in 1993 by the Education Reform Act. The Commission on Student Learning identified the essential academic learning requirements - the standards students must meet, to pass. The WASLs measure whether students are meeting those requirements in fourth, seventh and tenth grades, using such testing tools as essay-writing to assess critical thinking, rather than the multiple-choice answers of other standardized tests. Statewide, 171 districts met the three-year WASL goal of reducing by 25 percent the number of students who do not meet reading and math standards. To meet the next three-year goal, in 2004, 88.9 percent of Bainbridge fourth graders will have to pass the reading test and 74.3 percent must pass math; 79.1 percent of seventh graders must pass reading and 71.3 must pass math; 92.5 percent of 10th graders must pass reading and 73.4 percent must pass math.As the bar keeps being raised, and Bainbridge students approach the highest scores, improvement may become more difficult, some educators note. The Accountability Commission has not decided on a plan of action for schools that don't meet standards over time.They may well offer targeted assistance to schools, Chapel said, but the commission is unlikely to come after schools that meet 95 percent.

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