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State flunks WASL exam

Bainbridge students’ WASL scores didn’t add up.

An apparent decline in scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning – including a drop of about 10 points among Bainbridge High School students – was due to a coding error that deleted the scores of 46 students who took the test.

Woodward Middle School, Eagle Harbor High School, the Odyssey Multiage Program and the Home School Support Program also had students who took the test scored as “zeroes.” But Bainbridge High School, with 27 student scores left out, was most affected; having 13 other students skip the test didn’t help.

“We were shocked to find 40 students (scores) missing,” said Faith Chapel, the district’s deputy superintendent. “(The score of) any student has an impact on the overall score.”

The discrepancy between the number of students who took the test and the number scored was caught by Bainbridge administrators, who alerted the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in early August after preliminary test results were made available.

Pearson NCS, a Midwest educational testing company under contract with the OSPI to score the standardized exams – was informed of the problem but did not correct the scores.

Nor did the state catch the error the second time, and final scores released to the public Wednesday were still flawed.

Corrected scores are expected to be released early next week, OSPI spokesperson Kim Schmanke said.

“We were notified by the district of the error, and they asked us to correct it,” she said. “We contacted our scoring company, (as) the state does not have anything to do with administering and scoring the tests.

“We asked them to manually add those kids back in, (and) they did not make that change.”

The “missing” students were mistakenly listed as part-time home-schooled kids, a glitch that occurred when the Bainbridge district converted to a new data system last year.

In that process, students who had been homeschooled in the past were counted as current homeschoolers.

OSPI drew information directly from that database to identify where students were enrolled.

Since homeschoolers’ WASL scores are reported individually to the district but not to OSPI, each “missing” student’s score was counted as a zero.

“We couldn’t even hand-calculate those numbers because we never see those numbers...we just don’t have their scores,” Schmanke said. “So we have to wait for the scoring company to make some action on that.”

The 14 BHS students who did not take the mandatory test apparently were not an organized group who objected on philosophical grounds.

That’s in contrast to spring 2003, when 20 students boycotted the WASLs because they and their families objected to the emphasis on standardized testing.

“I had at least some degree of interaction with most of these (current) families,” BHS Principal Brent Peterson said. “There were three families with philosophical (or) political disagreements, but more prevalent was families’ concern about students with special educational needs who did not fall within the realm of kids excused by the state from taking the test.”

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Bainbridge fourth-graders’ scores, with all students counted, showed clear progress over the 2003 numbers, gaining 5.8 percentage points in reading; 3.5 points in math; and 7.7 in writing over 2003.

Test results from spring 2004 show 92 percent of district fourth-grade students met or exceeded state standards in reading; 82.8 percent did so in math; and 79 percent met standards in writing.

But as usual, Bainbrgde was nudged out only by Mercer Island. While the two districts tied in reading scores, 88.5 percent of Mercer fourth-grade kids met state standards in math and 83.3 in writing.

Corrected scores for other grades will be published when they are available.

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