Bremerton WASL scores on the rise

Bremerton schools have reason to celebrate the results of the 2002 Washington Assesment of Student Learning (WASL).

Overall, gains were made in reading, math and writing, but some ground was lost in listening among fourth and 10th graders.

“We were very excited,” said Linda Jenkins, assistant superintendent for the Bremerton School District.

The statewide results of the test given to fourth, seventh and 10th graders were released Monday Sept. 9, and Bremerton made improvements where much of the state didn’t.

On average, Washington’s fourth and 10th graders scored lower than in past years in reading, and the tenth graders did not perform as well in math. Bremerton, however, improved in these areas.

The WASL is a state-mandated exam, established to hold schools accountable for student achievment. It is designed to measure whether students have mastered the state’s standards, but unlike other standardized tests, it asks students to explain their thinking, write essays and solve complicated math problems.

Significant jumps were made in some Bremerton elementary schools. At West Hills Elementary, drastic improvements were made in math and writing along with a moderate gain in reading. West Hills has a large population of low income students, who traditionally do not perform as well.

Terry Bergeson, state superintendent of public instruction, highlighted the school’s achievement in a press conference Monday, Sept. 16. School officials were pleased to see that steps they have taken to improve student achievement are working.

In the two years since a 90-minute daily reading lesson was implemented at West Hills, the percentage of students meeting the standard jumped 27 points.

An on-site staff development teacher from the state’s Math Helping Corp could be credited with helping to more than double West Hill’s math score — it jumped from 25 to 61 percent.

“We know that our teachers and our principles have worked so hard,” Jenkins said.

Community volunteers, parents and staff are also credited with the improvements.

The success of these programs has prompted the district to look at pooling resources to bring in more on-site instructors for math and reading.

“I think we see the benefits when we put the money into education,” said Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, assistant superintendant.

Statewide and locally, 10th graders were more likely to not take the test or not answer questions. At Bremerton High, 59 students refused to take the test, were absent or did not complete the test. These students received zeros, which are averaged in with the other scores.

Test results are being included with official transcripts, universities are begining to consider the results as similar to other college entry exams. But forthcoming graduation requirements may be the key to motivating students.

The class of 2008 will take the test as 10th graders in 2006 and will be required to meet the WASL standard to graduate.

Bergeson hopes scores will improve dramatically when students are mandated to pass the test, and Jenkins said having 95 percent of the students meeting the standards by 2006 is a reachable goal. Students who do not pass the test will be able to retake failed sections in their junior and senior years.

Other statewide findings showed that scores for racial and ethnic students increased across the board in the fourth grade. Girls outperformed boys by significant margins in all grades, but girls and boys scored similarly in math across all grades.

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