Five more years to learn math, science

Before adjourning last week, the state Legislature approved delaying the math and science requirement on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning until 2013.

What the delay will mean for schools isn’t immediately clear.

“I don’t know what effects the delays will have,” said Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte.

He said the only thing he knows about the legislation is what he’s read in the papers. He’s expecting more information in a few days.

The class of 2008 — this year’s juniors — was supposed to pass the math, reading and writing portions of the WASL as a requirement for graduating. Now it will just be the latter two sections. The science portions of the WASL was to become a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2010.

The delay of the WASL doesn’t mean school officials are going to stop working to improve math and science performance.

“We’re not going to give up,” Schulte said.

In fact, the Legislature dictated the delay to give schools more time to implement effective math and science curricula in an effort to boost weak test scores.

Student scores in the math and science sections are the lowest of the four sections of the WASL. Statewide 51 percent of sophomores passed math, while 35 percent of the sophomores passed science.

In Oak Harbor, 43.9 percent of the sophomores passed math last year and 32.2 percent passed science.

In Coupeville, 62.2 percent of the sophomores passed math last year and 44.2 percent passed science.

Remedial efforts within the school district will continue to help students improve their skills, Schulte said.

The school district will continue to receive state funding that will pay for summer school and before and after school programs, Schulte said.

He understood the need to delay the math requirement.

“It would be unacceptable to keep half of the students statewide from graduating based on one test,” Schulte said.

He said it’s good there are alternatives that could be available to students.

Rather than simply delaying the WASL requirements until 2013, students who don’t get past the math assessment would have to take extra math classes. Students in the class of 2008 will have to successfully complete one extra math class while younger students will have to successfully complete two additional math classes.

Bill Myhr, superintendent of the Coupeville School District, agreed with delaying the math and science WASL requirement and liked that students are accountable for math through their senior year.

He said that people need to understand their is a gap between the achievement and the systems that teach the students.

“Those systems are not in place and that is shown by the scores,” Myhr said. The five-year delay will give districts time to close achievement gaps.

The Coupeville School Board took a step forward in improving the district’s math program. The board unanimously approved a new math curriculum for students at the middle school and high school during its Monday evening meeting.

The Legislature approved the WASL legislation, ESSB 6023, at the close of the session. Locally, in the House, Rep. Chris Strow, R-Freeland, and Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, voted against the legislation. In the Senate, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, voted for the legislation.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has not yet signed the bill into law. She has the option of vetoing all or parts of the bill.

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