Tuesday, September 04, 2007

WASL - Seattle Middle Schools

This is the second in a three-part look at the WASL scores for Seattle schools. Again, this is only a snapshot look but I did look at scores as far back as 2002-2003 to get a fair look. The overall view? Stagnant is the word that comes to mind for the majority of schools whether they are high-performing, in the middle or low-performing. I

For SPS middle schools there has been a steady rise in reading scores from 2002-03. Math and writing have also experienced a rise although much slower.
  • The schools that scored over 80% in reading are Eckstein, Salmon Bay and Washington.
  • The schools that scored over 75% in writing are Blaine, Eckstein, Salmon Bay, TOPS and Washington.
  • Schools that scored over 70% in math were Blaine, Eckstein, TOPS and Washington.
  • The schools that scored over 60% for students passing all 3 subjects were Blaine, Eckstein, Salmon Bay, TOPS and Washington.
  • Schools that scored under 20% for students passing all 3 subjects were Madrona, Meany, AAA and Aki (at 21%).
(I include a science score to track how students are doing going into high school - as science will be part of the WASL at some point - but these are 8th grade scores.)


AAA has erratic scores to say the least. They have the highest F/R at 89%. They also have the lowest pass rate for all 3 subjects. Reading is a bright spot from 18.5 last year to 73.5% this year. But looking at their record, it will likely drop as the school seems unable to sustain its scores when they rise.
Aki Kurose seems to be losing students quickly from a high of 699 in 2003-2004 to a low last year of 577. I don't know if this is a reflection of their WASL scores or if there are other factors. They have stagnant writing scores and up and down math/reading scores. They did have a huge jump in reading scores from last year's 29% to this year's 55%. Their F/R rate is almost 75%.
Blaine has somewhat stagnant scores with a steady rise over the last 3 years (their math rate jumped 20 pts. last year.) They have a 14% F/R lunch rate. They have a high science score (8th grade) at 56%. Their rate for passing all 3 is great at 65%.
Denny has a steady if slow rise in scores and a high F/R rate of 69%. They have no scores over 60% (not even reading).
Eckstein is holding steady but it's a high steady with the best scores of any middle school. Their F/R rate is about 15%. They also have a high science score at 68% as well as a 68% passage rate for all 3 subjects.
Hamilton has had steady if small increases over the years. They are barely at 60% for reading and writing but are at a fairly high F/R rate of 53% (higher than I might have thought).
Madison has a lower F/R rate than Hamilton at 41% and only slightly higher scores. They have been rising slowly but they are somewhat stagnant in math.
Madrona has the lowest science score of all the middle schools at 2.3%. They have a F/R rate of 68%. They have the 2nd lowest pass rate for all three subjects. Somewhat stagnant scores except for writing which has steadily risen and was 72% this year. That's an interesting subject to experience the most progress in.
McClure is also holding steady with 2 categories over 60%. They have a F/R rate of 42% and a respectable science score of 50%.
Meany is holding steady but at low steady with just two categories - reading and writing - over 40%. Their F/R rate is about 71%; their science score is just 18%.
Mercer has seen a slow but steady rise in scores with two subjects near 70%. Their F/R rate is 69%.
Pathfinder is a bit of a mystery. It's F/R rate is about 37% (high but not compared to many other schools. Only 1 subject is even at 60% (reading). They have a low number of teaching years (8.5 average) compared with the District average of about 10-11.
Salmon Bay is holding steady but it, like Eckstein, is a high steady. They recorded the highest science score of any middle school at 69.2%. They also have a low teaching year average of 7.5 years. Their rate of passage for all 3 subjects is 66%.
Summit has a fairly low F/R rate (26.9%) and yet they have lame scores which have remained that way for several years. Math did jump 13 points this year.
TOPS had a good year in 2005-2006 but has been mostly holding steady. Their F/R rate is only 23% and again, like Summit, their scores are not as high as you might think (mid-high 70s) given the school's reputation. Their science score was good at 52% and their pass rate for all 3 subjects was very good at 64.5%.
Washington has a F/R rate of 34% but does well (likely because of the presence of APP/Spectrum students). They have experienced a steady climb in scores with two (reading and writing) in the low 80's. Their science score is 50%.
Whitman is another surprise. Pretty stagnant scores with only two at about 70%. Their F/R rate is 30% and their science score was about 50%.


Charlie Mas said...

Using the detail information from the OSPI it is possible to disaggregate these scores to remove the scores of APP, Spectrum, and Special Education students to compare general education pass rates between schools. Washington's general education student pass rates don't look much different from Meany's.

The falling enrollment at Aki Kurose is interesting in that it comes at a time when the District is seriously considering restricting transportation out of the Southeast Region down to what other regions get. Right now, students living in the Southeast Region are provided with transportation to Meany, McClure or Hamilton.

Roy Smith said...

I hate to keep harping on this, but using one grade's results (for middle school, 7th grade) as representative of the entire school provides misleading conclusions. I could cite numerous examples, but I will only describe one here:

Melissa states that AAA's reading pass rate jumped from 18.5% to 73.5%. But that is comparing two different cohorts. This year's 8th graders (last years 7th graders) only improved from 18.5% to 36.8%; this year's 7th graders (last year's 6th graders) improved from 47.4% to 73.5%. An increase, to be sure, but not the dramatic "18.5% up to 73.5%". Meanwhile, 36.4% of this year's 6th graders passed the reading portion, down from 68.3% two years ago when they were in 4th grade.

In my view, comparing the results of this year's 7th grade class to last year's 7th grade class doesn't really tell you anything meaningful. I know that is how NCLB mandates that schools be evaluated, but that methodology produces demonstrably non-sensical results, particularly for smaller schools. Why aren't we analyzing this data by comparing how a group of students did compared to themselves in earlier years? That would provide a more meaningful indication of progress, or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

To roy smith's point, isn't this also the way the WASL was intended to be used (as a measure of individual progress and not aggregated for comparison of one cohort or school to another?)

The district used to have a metric called "value added" that tried to get at year-over-year same-cohort measurement - I wonder if it's still alive...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm just attempting to look at it from the teaching end rather than cohort end. That was what the WASL was originally created for; to see how teachers are doing.

Of course, Roy is right; the kids are different from year to year. My frustration over these huge leaps up and down from year to year (as opposed to what I would hope to see which is steadily rising scores from the time the WASL came into being). What causes these leaps? Smarter kids in that class? New teaching methods? Tweaking of the WASL itself?

I'm pretty sure value-added is still used and I'll try to find out where on the SPS website you might find that information.

Anonymous said...

One interesting analysis would be to be show WASL results versus FRL percentage across the district. There is generally a very strong correlation. Those schools who are ahead of the correlation line deserve to be recognized.

Dan Dempsey said...

To repeat I say that using WASL for much of anything is highly suspect:

From Spring 2000 to Spring 2005 the state gave both the Iowa and the WASL tests.
At grade 7 the WASL Reading passing rate improved 66%.
At grade 6 the Iowa Reading percentile rank improved 1 point.
At grade 9 the Iowa Reading percentile rank was unchanged.

Our schools lost any testing connection to reality in 2005 as OSPI ended Iowa testing. The WASL does not test high school level mathematics. If you believe that middle school reading competency improved 66% during the six year period mentioned, do you also believe that I-pods, and video games have an enormous positive impact on reading ability? I choose to think the nationally normed and relatively inexpensive IOWA tests have greater accuracy than the very expensive WASL.


Dan Dempsey said...

Is Middle School Math CMP2 another lesson in lunacy?

Extensive Project Follow Through research revealed that exploration and inquiry based programs are not effective ways for students termed “disadvantaged” to learn mathematics. Why is this school district so interested in having a continuing and widening achievement gap in Math?

Is this board interested in the continued widening of the disproportional Math gap? If not, then why does this district keep adopting curricula that are so ineffective and detrimental in teaching mathematics to disadvantaged learners? In fact these reform materials are not likely to be the best choice for any student’s learning.

At the September 5, 2007 board meeting Mr. DeBell stated that he had great confidence in Seattle Schools’ math plans because of the idea of fidelity of implementation. There is nothing to warrant such confidence. I do not have such confidence.

Consider the following: over the last decade the WASL Math “achievement gap” has grown larger in mathematics in Seattle. The Professional Development Cubed project (PD^3) directed by Dr. James King of the U of W put resources into Garfield and Cleveland last year that provided additional planning periods for PD^3 teachers to facilitate implementation of IMP. There was a decline in Garfield High School Math WASL scores from 70.9% passing in Spring 2006 to 68.9% passing in Spring 2007.

Although a U of W doctoral candidate worked part-time teaching and assisting Cleveland with the implementation of IMP, there was a decline in Cleveland High School Math WASL scores from 21.1% passing in Spring 2006 to 17.9% passing in Spring 2007. Could the resources expended on these two schools from NSF grant funds ever be afforded by high schools depending on Seattle’s regular funding formulas?

This board has continually resisted the idea of intelligently applying relevant statistical data. Now choosing to ignore the advice from a highly skilled consultant, Linda Plattner, hired by the State Board of Education at a cost of $150,000 in favor of believing that fidelity of implementation can be accomplished using Everyday Math and Connected Math. The fact that these materials failed in Denver, and are no longer considered best practice for teaching and learning seemingly does not matter to our administration. The detrimental impact of inquiry and exploration based reform math curricula on students of color continues, as the board ignores Project Follow Through. Why?

On May 16th and 30th, was the board fooled by deceptive statistics and testimonies?
No data was presented from the pilot school Green Lake. The Green Lake data showed no improvement from past materials despite a focused emphasis on improvement and the school population for which EM should work.

Board members were presented material in the form of relevant statistics at every school board meeting from January 17th until the formal adoption of Everyday Math on May 30th. This formal adoption action took place in an un-televised school board meeting that occurred a few days after the SEA had notified their members that Everyday Math had been adopted. Why have public testimonies after decisions are already made?

Without a solid k-5 math foundation do not expect much in middle school.

Some of the reasons given by Ms. Wise for adopting EM were that it aligns well with State GLEs, it aligns well with Connected Math Project 2, and it is project and inquiry based. These are in fact three reasons as to why EM is an extremely poor adoption for use at the African American Academy. It should also be noted that Ms. Wise, Ms. Hoste, and Ms. Santorno never presented any information that EM was a reasonable adoption for children of color. Why would anyone believe this is a reasonable curriculum adoption?

On January 3, 2007 Ms. Wise presented information at the board meeting about how well the new Connected Math2 program was being implemented throughout the school district. The board was told several times how well this implementation was going between Jan 3 and the end of the school year. Is there WASL data to support what she repeatedly said? There was nothing positive for children of color as the 7th grade (2007 WASL Math GAP) remained constant for both Black at 49% and Hispanic Students at 40%.

I’ve repeatedly asked the administration why select ethnically discriminatory math curricula and yet despite a preponderance of evidence supporting my contention the board continually ignores the relevant data and supports the administration's continued flawed direction. Are law suits and public humiliation the only actions that ever make SPS change direction?

Here is the SPS Math achievement gap data for grade 7:

Grade 7 GAP
District Black minus District White in bold with district Hispanic minus District White (in the right hand column).

1997-98 -32.70% -24.10%
1998-99 -41.80% -31.10%
1999-00 -41.90% -26.70%
2000-01 -43.30% -30.90%
2001-02 -39.00% -29.50%
2002-03 -42.70% -30.80%
2003-04 -49.10% -35.40%
2004-05 -47.70% -31.70%
2005-06 -49.90% -39.60%
2006-07 -49.10% -40.60%

Anyone besides me think it is time to contact the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Education?

It is easily noticed that the achievement gap continues to grow in mathematics and that it is unacceptably large and growing larger. This district continues to ignore the largest study in the history of education. Project Follow Through (PFT) specifically addresses the best practices for disadvantaged learners k-3. Why are practices chosen that produced math results 8% worse than the control group when a model that produced 28% better than the control is available? Why the continuing attempt to defy the results of the largest study in the history of education?

Now the board is planning on continuing with failing practices that are not only the opposite of those recommended by the N.S.F. funded Mathematics Standards Study Group of 2004 but now also in opposition to the recommendations of the State Board of Education consultant.

Uri Treisman, director of the Dana Center for educational research at the University of Texas at Austin, says that Seattle and the state of Washington are two of the most confused places in the nation in regard to k-12 school mathematics. He will get no arguement from me.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Charlie Mas said...

Despite all of the talk about closing the Academic Achievement Gap, what, if anything, has the District done about it?

Can anyone tell me the District's plan of action for closing the gap? I can't name it. I can name some disconnected and ineffective elements, such as culturally relevant curriculum and home visits, but no comprehensive plan.

I haven't seen much evidence that culturally relevant curriculum is effective here in Seattle. Who has more culturally relevant curriculum than the AAA? And how are their results?

Has anyone measured the effectiveness of home visits? I haven't seen any data to support the continuation of this practice here in Seattle.

Where is the early intervention? The District should be identifying and swooping down on every student working below grade level and providing them with an extended, intensive and enrich academic experience - they don't. Students who are working below grade level are just promoted to the next grade and the next school to become someone else's problem.

I have heard talk about targeted class size reduction, but I haven't seen any of it and I haven't seen it in the Weighted Staffing Formula. Shouldn't the new formula provide schools with a significant number of underperforming students with increased funding to reduce the class size? How else would they do targeted class size reduction?

Where in the weighted staffing formula is additional funding for an extended class day, an extended school week, and an extended school year? I don't see it.

Schools with signficant numbers of FRE students get extra funding, but no direction, no restrictions, and no accountability for how that money is spent. Schools are supposed to report on how they spent their I-728 money; when will they be required to report how they spent their compensatory ed money? This money is as much as the richest school raise at their six-figure fundraisers. Like the PTA fundraisers, this money is over and above the normal District allocation to the school. But we never hear about how it is spent, and we don't see significant differences in class size or resources at the schools. Where does all this money go?

I don't think that we can say that the District's plan for closing the gap isn't working because I don't think we can say that the District HAS a plan for closing the gap.

Dan Dempsey said...

Hey Charlie,

If we wanted to actually accomplish something we would be spending on teachers of children rather than coaches of teachers and actually defining the grade level necessary skills as indicated in D43.00 D44.00 and D45.00.

Instead we plan to spend 4.2 million on coaches for teachers [07-08]
3.1 million for high school Pathways program - a direct result of failing to implement D43 thru D45.
2.5 million on a ridiculous ill advised Elementary math adoption.[06-07]
Now Budget 2 million for a high school adoption in [07-08]

Never mind that the Everyday Math curriculum's impact on children of color was never mentioned.

Pleezee - where do we find these people ???

WSHS despite the controversy over its four-period day and math achievement is staffed with the same number of math teachers as last year - despite the fact that non-passers of WASL math are required to take additional classes in math.

Let us see now 7 million = 100 teachers. We squander over 10 million on the above mentioned bizarre expenditures but can not afford an additional math teacher at WSHS.

The public in every poll taken in recent years wants more money expended on children in the classroom - So naturally SPS does the exact opposite.

The Achievement Gap grows ever larger in SPS math as highly paid incompetent administrators ignore all relevant data. While the school board unanimously endorses continued lunacy.

Please wake me, I must be in a Bad Science fiction dream.

Dan Dempsey said...

Here is how Middle School seventh grade math WASL scores stack up over the last 10 years.

I still think the WASL is fairly useless as it is primarily an expensive public relations tool for Dr. Bergeson.

This is the District score minus the State score for 7th grade math.

Hardly impressive from
Spring 1998 through Spring 2007:



You will notice that the last six years scores are all below the first four years scores.

This is not an improvement over time.

Charlie Mas said...

Dan raises an interesting question:

Students who do not pass the math portion of the WASL are required to continue taking math classes. If we presume that some of these students would not otherwise have continued taking math classes (only two years of math are normally required for graduation), that represents a net increase in students taking math classes. If more high school students are taking math classes, then won't the schools have to offer more sections? And if the school have to offer more sections, then won't they need more high school math teachers? And aren't high school math teachers reportedly in short supply?

Where will the State of Washington, and Seattle Public Schools in particular, find all of the additional highly qualified math teachers that they will need? The No Child Left Behind Law requires schools to put "highly qualified" teachers in front of students. This really means something when it comes to high school math teachers. Not just any certified teacher is allowed to do it. And how, exactly, did West Seattle High School manage to go without hiring any more? How many more math teachers did each school hire in response to the additional class requirements on students who failed the math portion of the WASL?

Anonymous said...

What does WA state/SPS/The Union think of professionals who use a subject, but may not be certified, teaching a subject? My BEST teacher in HS was Mr.(Dr., Professor) Wessel (Sir) who showed up at 8 am to teach Calculus to seven of us and then went off to work in a steel mill. He did it because he loved to teach, but he couldn't afford to be a teacher. Sad, isn't it?

When we moved to Seattle, I called around to see if I could teach (M.S., M.A., M.Phil., Ivy League, teaching experience), but not even the Catholic schools would take me. I wasn't in the position to pay to get a Masters in teaching. I understand that you need more than subject matter to teach 4th grade, but I could have taught stats to seniors. Are we keeping guys (and girls) like Mr. Wessel out of the system for no good reason?

Anonymous said...

I would like to comment about Blaine's math scores for the 2006 7th grade. When this same group of students took the math WASL as 4th graders they also scored 77%. So in three years, no gain, no loss.
Now look at this years 6th and 8th grade scores: 57% and 62%. (Oh and the 6th graders, who scored 57% this year, scored 65% as 5th graders, an 8 point drop from one year to the next, most likely due to several leaving for the Spectrum Middle school program!)

Anyway, this 20% increase getting so much attention is just a blip created by a very sharp group of kids, nothing more nothing less. 7th grade math scores will fall again to 60% this year, and 8th math will shoot up...simply because these kids are now 8th graders!

Bottom line...you just cannot base a schools success or failure based on one year of data!

And more point, we are only talking about 60 students per grade, not real big numbers!