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State scores continue to rise as 2012-2013 school year begins
Going into the first day of classes this week, local schools continued to keep pace with statewide improvements in math and science scores and a small decline in reading scores.
In both the Bremerton and Central Kitsap School districts, officials said scores were mostly positive but also said there was room for improvement.
Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, in an Aug. 28 release, cited a 10.4 percent jump in state-wide fifth-grade science scores, from 55.7 percent of students passing in 2011 to 66.1 percent in 2012, and an increase of 4.7 percent in eighth-grade scores from last year. Reading scores showed increases in fourth, fifth and seventh grades and decreases in third and eighth grades compared to last year while sixth-grade scores stayed the same. Statewide testing scores for Washington school districts for 2011-12, were released Aug. 29.
Dorn said, overall, he was pleased with statewide results but found room for improvement in the scores.
“We have more ups than we have downs,” Dorn said during a press conference held Aug 29. “Students continue to make progress.”
Science scores in the state had greatly improved and he credited the improvement to schools placing an increased emphasis on science in earlier grades.
Officials at the Central Kitsap School District pointed out that students’ science scores had topped state averages at all grade levels in the district.
The district also fared well in reading with scores higher than the state average in reading in every grade tested, and the district scored higher than the state average in math in all grades except third and fifth.
For high-school math in year one, the district scored almost a full ten percentage points higher than the state average and in year two the district scored more than six percentage points higher. The district also scored slightly higher in overall biology than the state average.
Central Kitsap School District Superintendent Greg Lynch said he was pleased with the results and felt the scores reflected the commitment of district staff to students’ education.
“I am exceptionally pleased with the results,” he said. “The bottom line is we’ve got a wonderfully capable staff, and I attribute the results you see in these assessments to a tremendous job of teaching.”
Franklyn MacKenzie, Director of Secondary Education for the Central Kitsap School District, said the positive numbers reflected the district’s work in restructuring communications within the district.
“I think our focus on our instructional framework and a common language that administrators and teachers are using is one of the factors and will pay off over a long time,” he said.
He said the district also worked on effective communications with students.
“Our training for instructors and staff members focuses on creating relationships with the kids early on in the school year and then building on those relationships through the year,” MacKenzie said.
The Bremerton School District scored higher than the state average in first year high school math, and although the district scored lower than the state average in second year high school math, the district increased its math scores for high school students from 63.8 to 71.6 percent for second year math compared to last year’s scores.
The district was lower than the state average in reading in all except fifth grade, but showed an improvement of 13.2 percent compared to last year for the same grade level. The district also showed an increase of 12.3 percent in seventh grade as well as an increase in reading in all but third, fourth and sixth grades compared to last year.
Bremerton School District Spokesperson Patty Glaser said the district continued to make progress in educating students.
“We’ve been working hard for the last several years to identify what students need to be successful,” she said. “We know that we have some increases and some decreases but we are pleased with our information.”
She said the district owed a measure of success to communications between teachers.
“We are very pleased with our science and math scores,” she said. “We have been working hard creating common planning time for our teachers. They are creating their plans together, which I think is a huge thing.”
Glaser said the district’s continued success was due to a focus on the individual achievement of each student
“There is always the state assessment piece,” she said. “But our accountability is to individual students.”
She said the district hoped to see continued improvement in scores due to methods such as having instructors create their teaching plans together and offering students after school interaction with teachers.
Although Dorn said he was pleased with the overall progress of students in the state, he pointed towards lower graduation rates among student subgroups as a topic of concern for educators.
He said statistics from 2011 showed what educators call an achievement gap within the student subgroups.
Among the subgroups, Asian students graduated at a rate of 82 percent followed by white students at 80 percent. Students who report their ethnicity as two or more races, graduated at a rate of 73.6 percent, Pacific Islanders at 66.2 percent, black students at 65.4 percent and Hispanic students at 64.5 percent. Native Americans graduate on time at a rate of 56.5 percent.
Dorn said the numbers indicated the need for state educators to help such students.
“Our goal is to educate all kids in Washington State,” Dorn said. “It’s clear there are kids who need targeted attention to get to graduation.”
Officials of both the Bremerton and the Central Kitsap school districts said they continue to work to close such gaps through training and attention to individual students.
MacKenzie said the Central Kitsap School District is aware of the problem and continues to seek to serve student subgroups.
“We recognize that we, the state and the nation have that gap,” he said. “We still have an achievement gap where our underserved students are not scoring as well as our other students.”
MacKenzie said the district continues to try to close the achievement gap through culturally responsive teaching strategies that are designed to benefit all students.
“We just finished a training the last two days with all our teaching staff for those kinds of strategies that really help minorities but are a benefit to all students,” he said.
Glaser said the Bremerton School District continued to meet the challenges of the achievement gap through attention to every student.
“We do formative assessments and close the achievement gap by looking at each individual students,” she said. “Once again, it comes down to individual student making growth.”