Monday, August 26, 2013

Seattle Schools Shows Improvement on State Tests

 Update on this story with numbers from Rainier Beach High School:
  • RB had the highest increase in reading scores for high schools in the district (17%).
  • 22% increase in Science
  • and 8-10% increase in Math
 End of update

From SPS Communications (bold mine):

Seattle Public School students again made significant academic gains during the 2012-2013 school year, Superintendent José Banda announced today.

The preliminary scores released by the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) show Seattle students outperforming the state average in multiple subjects.[1]

In 2013, Seattle students met or exceeded standard on the state exams at a higher rate than the previous year (2012) in 19 of 21 exams taken. Seattle also exceeded the 2013 statewide average in 19 of 21 exams, remaining slightly behind in only 10th grade reading and writing. The district widened its lead over statewide averages in 18 exams reflecting a trend in recent years of increasing separation between Seattle and the state as a whole.

Building upon successes in recent years, positive trends continued in mathematics for 3rd through 8th grade. Compared to 2012 results, Seattle students achieved increases of 3.1 and 3.0 percentage points in 3rd and 4th grades, and 4.2 and 5.3 points in 7th and 8th grade, respectively. Results in 5th and 6th grades were slightly positive or stable. Scores for 8th grade math increased the most with 69.4 percent meeting or exceeding standard in 2013 versus 64.1 percent in 2012 — a 5.3 percentage point increase. The separation between Seattle and the statewide average increased or remained stable in 3rd through 8th grade mathematics. The biggest change was observed in 8th grade where Seattle increased its advantage over the state from an 8.7 point lead in 2012 to a 16.2 point margin in 2013.

The upward trend in 5th grade science continued for the third year in a row with 74.8 percent of students meeting or exceeding standard.

“The fifth-grade science scores have gone up by 11 percentage points in the past two years,” said Banda. “I’m particularly pleased to see positive results in math and science. These subjects play a key role in preparing our students to attend college and compete for employment both now and in the future.”

Eighth grade science scores remained consistent with 75 percent of students again meeting or exceeding standard, up from 60 percent three years ago.

End-of-course (EOC) math scores showed positive gains as well with 86.4 percent of students having passed the state Algebra exam, and 91.4 percent passing the Geometry exam.[2]

In the second year of the biology EOC test, 82.8 percent of students in Seattle Public Schools passed. This result was higher than the statewide pass rate of 81.7 percent. (The biology EOC was administered for the first time in 2012.)

On the 10th grade High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE), the percent meeting standard dropped by 2.3 percentage points in writing, however reading improved by 5.2 percentage points to 83.3 percent. 

Writing scores in 4th and 7th grade improved by 2.2 points and 3.5 points, respectively. Building good writing skills remains a focus for the District as nearly any career or college plans require strong writing. 

Compared to last year, reading scores increased across all grades with the exception of 7th grade. The largest increase in proficiency rates over last year was shared by 6th and 10th graders in reading, where both groups bested their 2012 results by 5.2 percentage points. Seattle increased its achievement compared with the statewide average in 3rd through 8th grade reading with 6th graders increasing their lead by the largest margin — from a 3.8 percentage point margin in 2012 to an 8.3 point lead in 2013.

Today’s results reinforce a significant positive trend in successfully closing the achievement gap for schools serving lower income communities in Seattle. Based on preliminary district estimates, for example, the gap in 3rd to 8th grade mathematics (combined) between students in Southeast Seattle and students in the other four regions of the district has narrowed from a 20 percentage point aggregate gap in 2010 to a 9 percentage point gap in 2013.

“Education will open doors for our students for the rest of their lives,” said Superintendent Banda. “While we must continue our work to close the achievement gap, we are making progress. This is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the entire community.” 

The test results released by OSPI today provide results from student examinations which took place in spring of 2013. Students in grades 3 through 8 took the MSP tests in reading, math, writing (grades 4 and 7 only) and science (grades 5 and 8 only). Students in 10th grade took the HSPE in reading and writing. High school students (and some middle school students) also took the EOC exams in math (algebra or geometry) and science (biology).
Tables showing SPS trend data and state comparisons can be found at the end of this news release. 

Complete information concerning the 2013 state test results for each school, grade level and student subgroup may be found at the OSPI report card (
Seattle Public Schools
MSP / HSPE / EOC System-wide Results
Percent Meeting Standard and SPS/State comparison (2006-2013)

For further state, district, and school level results, please visit OSPI’s website at:

From OSPI:
To date, the Class of 2013 has fulfilled each assessment requirement at the following rates:
  • Reading: 94.7%
  • Writing: 94.6%
  • Math: 92%
More than ninety percent (90.5 percent) of 12th graders in the Class of 2013 have met all three requirements. “These passing rates are high,” Dorn said. “I’m proud of the work done by teachers, students and their families to reach these levels.”

While the success rate on the assessments is high, it’s important to note that some students have not fulfilled the other three graduation requirements: credits, high school and beyond plan and culminating project. The final on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2013 will be available in February 2014. 


Kate Martin said...

Hi Melissa.

"To date, the Class of 2013 has fulfilled each assessment requirement at the following rates:
• Reading: 94.7%
• Writing: 94.6%
• Math: 92%"

Don't these stats communicate that they fulfilled each assessment - that they actually took the test - not that they scored in those numbers?

Am I missing something?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dorn's statement says "the passing rates are high" so they not only took them but passed them.

seattle citizen said...

The question soon will be: what will the switch to Smarter Balance test (Washington's choice as the new Common Core test) bring? One issue is that basically the system will be reset with a whole new test - when the state switched from WASL to MSP/HSPE, the argument was made that they were closely related for statistical purposes.This is not the case with SB - it's a whole new test. Since it can't be compared with HSPE, there will no way to compare change over time for at least a couple of years.
Another issue is the potential for a massive drop in pass rates, as happened in NY. The pro-common core csmp argues that the bar has been set higher, so more kids fail, but what do we tell 70% of 4th graders when they fail, as hsppened in NY?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen, more on that to come but yes, it's a train that's coming.

Anonymous said...

Now that we have a 90+% pass rate for the EOC/HSPEs, the only tests that matter, it can only mean one thing. The test must be WAY to easy! We'll have to make a harder test so that we can have the failure rates that we love to hate!


Anonymous said...

Actually Kate, the whole thing is pretty fishy. Here's the link for SPS high school pass rates. Pass Rates. Notice that the pass rates for this administration in Algebra is 66.8%. About what you'd expect. Geometry higher at 81%. They've probably had a lot of drop outs.

Curiously, if you include the PP's (or previously passed) the number shoots way up. But who really cares about "previously passed"? We're talking about how did kids do... THIS TIME AROUND. Yes thousands (literally) took it before, and passed it. Not so interesting.

Smells Rat

Anonymous said...

Smells Rat, I'm not sure what you are getting at. For high school graduation purposes, students must pass either the Algebra EOC or the Geometry EOC. The students take the EOC when they take the corresponding class and, once they've passed the EOC (either Algebra or Geometry), they don't need to take it again. Typically, students take Algebra in 9th grade --- obviously, I'm aware of the move to have 8th graders take Algebra --- and Geometry in 10th grade. There are some students who take Algebra as early as 6th grade. If a student in the graduating class of 2013 took Algebra back in 7th grade, their "Previously Passed" score is included in the Class of 2013 cohort pass rates. And students who take Algebra in middle school tend to do VERY WELL on the state math tests. Those students who are taking the Algebra EOC in 11th and 12th grade are usually not very proficient in math (or any other subject) and typically do not do well on state math tests.

And the reason that Geometry scores are better than Algebra scores is not due to dropouts but rather that more math proficient students (i.e., college-bound) are taking Geometry. Not all students take Geometry.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

If the pass rates are high and the overall math achievement is improving in Seattle, does that mean that the math curriculum might not be all that awful?

- Boring Pseudonym

Anonymous said...


The score required to pass the Algebra EOC is 400 points out of a possible 675. That is just 59% - which would be a failing grade if it was your final grade in an algebra class.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Someone,

The issue for me is that they're counting all previous passes as some sort of "good job" this year. The real question is "How's it going now?" For Algebra EOC... counting every high-schooler who ever passed it, and then doing high fives all around really misses the point. Of the students WHO TOOK IT THIS YEAR... well, not so many pass.

Hmmmm. Isn't Geometry required? And its EOC? If not, then why would anybody bother with it?

Still Smelling Rat

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Still Smelling, they're not counting all high school students who ever passed but only those who are in the respective graduating classes. For example, all students who are in 12th grade this past year that started 9th grade in the 2009-10 school are part of the Class of 2013 cohort. Their EOC scores are counted in this cohort regardless of what year/grade they actually passed the EOC.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

Parent too, I'll respond to Lynn since your inappropriate name-calling response will likely get deleted by Melissa when she gets a chance to read it.

Lynn, the 400 points to "pass" any of the state tests are a scale score, not a raw score. Essentially, the scale scores are used to report scores with some standardization given the different forms students take. What might not be commonly known is that students across the state are taking different forms of the test with a varying set of test questions; therefore, the raw scores for the tests vary test form to test form. However, these different raw scores can be statistically applied to the common scale score.

Raw scores are the actual number of points for each test.

With that said, even the percent of raw score points needed to "pass" the state tests is in the ballpark of 60-70% correct. So, contrary to parent too's accusation, you are essentially correct.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

Still Smelling, I forgot to answer your second question. Students are only required to pass one EOC - either the Algebra or the Geometry --- to meet the minimum state graduation requirement. A local district may require that the students in that district pass both. As far as I know, SPS only requires that students pass one.

Why would a student even both with the Geometry EOC if it's not technically required? One explanation is that some students are better at spatial and/or visual interpretations within mathematics rather than verbal manipulations and do better at Geometry than Algebra. They might not have passed the Algebra EOC but can pass the Geometry EOC.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

Oops. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I did not read the info on the OSPI website very carefully.


Anonymous said...

Looking at the OSPI results for Lowell, it seems they have now separated the scores for Lowell and APP@Lincoln. Lowell's scores dropped significantly. APP@Lincoln is listed separately as "APP at Lincoln."


MontMom said...

How do we find out our own child's scores?

Don't know

ben said...

Normally all the standardized testing is viewable on the source. I haven't checked if that's back up yet. (It wasn't all this summer)

MontMom said...

The source is still not available which is why I don't know how to access my student's scores.

Christina said...

The MSP scores are also mailed to students' addresses. I remember getting them in mid-late September last year.
I know that it's difficult to get individual scores from the school.

I also wish I knew how to get the scores before the school year started.