Six Highline Schools Face Sanctions For Low WASL Scores

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by Ralph Nichols

Six Highline schools face sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act as a result of their 2009 WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) scores, which were released last week.

But, says Highline School District spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers, overall test scores at Highline schools are improving – and “bright notes” include Aviation High School (temporary location, Des Moines) scoring third highest in math and science out of over 500 schools statewide, and Highline students’ science gains district-wide outpacing the state.

“In general,” Carbone Rogers notes, “Highline WASL scores are trending with the state. In most grades and subjects, Highline’s change from 2008 to 2009 is within a very points of the state average. As is the case statewide, more Highline schools were designated as schools in ‘improvement’ status even though WASL scores remained relatively flat.

“This is because under No Child Left Behind, the scores required to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards increases every few years,” she says. “This is the second year since a boost in the standard; schools go into ‘improvement’ status after two years of missing the AYP target.”

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that students meet a number of academic targets. If schools miss targets, they face increasing sanctions until they improve.

Schools at “Step 4” have missed one or more mandated targets for at least five years. They are required by law to offer students the choice to transfer to higher-scoring schools and offer outside tutoring to low-income students, and face “corrective actions.” The district must also make plans to restructure the school.

Highline schools at Step 4 that face sanctions are:

  • Beverly Park Elementary
  • Hazel Valley Elementary in Burien
  • Madrona Elementary in SeaTac

Step 4 schools not facing sanctions are Global Connections High at the Tyee Educational Complex in SeaTac and Highline High in Burien.

Schools at “Step 5” have missed one or more targets for at least six years. They must restructure according to the plan defined under step 4, which may include replacing the principal and other staff members.

Highline schools at Step 5 that face sanctions are:

  • Cascade Middle in North Highline
  • Chinook Middle in SeaTac
  • Midway Elementary in Des Moines

Step 5 schools not facing sanctions are Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment and Odyssey High at the Tyee complex in SeaTac, and Pacific Middle in Des Moines.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to meet up to 37 requirements each year to achieve AYP. Those requirements involve how many students take the tests and, depending on grade level, on attendance or graduation rates.

The number of Washington schools on the federal “needs improvement” list nearly doubled, growing from 618 in 2008 to 1,073 this year. Math and science WASL scores continued to be areas of serious concern. Statewide, just 45 percent of 10th graders passed these subjects this year.

For a complete look at both the state’s and the Highline district’s “report cards,” click here. To see Highline’s WASL scores, click here. Below is a screenshot of part of the results:

Aviation High’s outstanding math and science scores are even more noteworthy because, Carbone Rogers notes, 21 percent of its students “are on free or reduced lunch; while the state’s highest scoring school in math and science (Lake Washington International Community School) has only 1.1 percent on free and reduced lunch.”

Encouraging improvement was made at Midway Elementary despite its Step 5 ranking with “two consecutive years of significant progress, although the jump was not large enough to get off the list of schools in ‘improvement’ status,” she adds.

And Parkside Elementary in Des Moines “made Adequate Yearly Progress this year, after not making it the previous two years.”

The 12-year-old WASL will be replaced next year by two new tests, the Measurements of Student Progress and the High School Proficiency Exam. Like the WASL, which was created under a 1993 state law mandating higher learning standards for K-12 students, the new exams will cover reading and math and, in some grades, writing and science.

Students will be tested in grades 3 through 8 and the 10th grade.

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