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WASL results mixed

Oak Harbor has some of the finest young readers in the state, but also saw a 25 percent drop in some areas of study in certain schools, according to state test results released this week.

When the state released the official results of last spring’s Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests Wednesday, Oak Harbor schools saw themselves climbing in the state rankings, but still sitting below the state average in most subject areas.

At the middle school level, 73.2 percent of seventh graders passed the writing section of the WASL. This was well above the state average of 58 percent.

“The middle school results are really positive,” Assistant Superintendent David Peterson said. “It’s nice to see that in our middle schools.”

Of North Whidbey Middle School’s seventh graders, 79.4 percent passed the writing section. At Oak Harbor Middle School, that number dropped to 70.9 percent.

The middle schools also had 69.8 percent of their students pass the reading section, which was an 18 percent jump over last year’s scores. Math increased by 11.3 percent and writing increased by 4.1 percent.

Peterson said a new math curriculum at the school has helped boost those scores.

“Our school are spending more of our focus on reading and math,” he said.

Reading is elementary

That additional focus on reading has helped Oak Harbor’s elementary students succeed. The elementary students boast the highest success rate in reading in the district. This year, 72.6 percent of fourth graders passed the reading section, which is up from 69.4 percent last year.

A few of the schools had exceptionally high reading results. Hillcrest Elementary saw 90.1 percent of its students pass that section.

“Hillcrest in reading is one of the highest in the state of Washington,” said Charisse Berner, the district’s curriculum director. “That will be one of the schools that other schools are calling saying, ‘What are you doing’? “

One of the more alarming numbers for the district was the results of the writing scores at the elementary level. Overall, the district’s marks fell by 7.5 percent, but at some of the schools, the drops were much more significant.

At Crescent Harbor, only 44.1 percent of fourth graders passed the writing section. This was down from the 67.6 percent who passed the year before. At Oak Harbor Elementary, the number slipped from 62.4 percent to 57.1 percent.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘Was this just a little dip’?” Peterson said.

At the two schools, the numbers suggest no. Although the schools have been making gains overall, the numbers fluctuate from year to year. At Crescent Harbor, the peak year for writing was the first year of the WASL, 1997, when 70.5 percent of students met the satisfactory marks. The same can be seen at Oak Harbor, where it had its second best year in 1997, when 61 percent of students passed.

“At Crescent Harbor, we need more information before we know what’s up with that,” Peterson said. “That level of variation is something we need to talk to them about.”

The numbers for the writing results have school officials concerned. The last few years have seen the district without enough funds to properly assess student writing abilities, Berner said. This school year will be different, however. Students at the fifth and eighth grade levels will take a writing assessment test.

10th grade has ups and downs

At the 10th grade level, the results are a mixed bag. The writing score reached an all-time high, with 74.2 percent of students passing. This is a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s 69.6 percent.

Students continued to struggle, however, with the math section. Scores have gone above 40 percent only twice, in 2002 and 2003. This year, the percentage of students passing was 37.7 percent.

“We really need to see a significant improvement in the high school scores,” Peterson said. “The high school has been flat for the five years in reading and math.”

The writing scores have continued their climb upward, since they bottomed out in 2000, when only 31.1 percent of students passed.

“Tenth graders are 10th graders,” Berner said. “They won’t take it seriously until it means something to them personally.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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