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District reacts to WASL scores

Oak Harbor School District officials are looking at the data and gearing up for change in reaction to release of the WASL scores this week.

“We as a district and as schools take this very seriously,” Assistant Superintendent David Peterson said. “It’s a good tool that shows improvement.”

Oak Harbor’s scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning show a trend of improvement, however that trend comes with a footnote.

Changes in the minimum scoring requirements have allowed more students to pass through the gates of success. According to a written statement from the Washington Education Association, the adjustments to performance targets have made it easier for schools to hit them.

The WASL has broader implications than test scores, as it is also the benchmark Washington’s school districts are measured by to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind act.

“Educators have very little confidence in the WASL or the so-called No Child Left BEhind Act as a meaningful measure of progress,” WEA President Charles Hasse said in a news release. “The number of schools deemed failing has decreased this year, but it’s only a matter of time before our state’s schools will face sanctions.”

Oak Harbor’s Peterson said the scoring changes had a minimal effect on the overall results.

“We don’t know and the state can’t tell us yet how much of the improvements are because of the scoring change,” he said.

If a school or district does not meet the levels of adequate yearly progress, it can face sanctions from the national level.

This year, all of the schools in the district met the progress requirements, Peterson said. Some subject areas have piqued the district’s attention, however. The district’s fourth graders scored below the state average by 2.7 percent on the writing section.

At some school, however, the drop was much more dramatic. At Clover Valley, the percentage of students passing the writing section fell by 23.5 percent.

By the end of September, schools will develop a comprehensive school improvement plan. The plan will center on improving areas that are weak on the WASL, but Peterson said the district is not teaching to the WASL.

The district bases its curriculums around the state’s essential academic learning requirements. These requirements also form the base for the questions on the WASL.

“School needs to be much more than the WASL,” said Charisse Berner, the district’s curriculum director. “But there’s nothing on that test we don’t value.”

Peterson said the district will not adjust to the scores only to improve the numbers.

“There are some things we value above and beyond the WASL that we’re not going to bump to get our scores up,” he said.

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

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