WASL- SPS Elementary

I've been doing some examination of the WASL scores. I thought I'd do a post for elementary, middle, and high schools. I used a chart from the Times (although I did find an error in the scores reported for Wedgwood; they are slightly lower in math and higher in reading and writing) and the info at OSPI. Here's a link to that page where you can navigate from school to school.

This first examination is for elementary. The lows:
  • AAA, Concord and Emerson. Just abysmal. Reading the recent news story about AAA, I hope with a new principal, 6 new teachers, a math coach and a reading coach that results - major results - show in 2 years. Period. It is just unconscionable to keep this school alive if these students are so behind. The forward motion AAA's 4th graders saw last year vanished this year. Their pass rate on all three subjects is 14.3%, Concord's is 14.6%, and Emerson's is 9.3%
  • Lots of schools are low in math. Sixteen of them are below 40% in the math portion. Emerson is the lowest at 18.6%.
  • Some of the lower performing schools are in a holding pattern. Northgate is a good example. Their scores have been flat for 3 years (with the exception of getting 85% on reading last year only to drop back to their previous 65% this year). They have a very low pass rate on all 3 subjects of 20%.
The highs:
  • There are schools that are performing very well. But, there are interesting oddities even here. The usual suspect, Lowell, is at the top but okay, we all knew that. So there's Bryant, Hay, Lafayette, McGilvra, Montlake, North Beach, View Ridge, Wedgwood, and Whittier; all of them are performing at 80% or above in all three subject areas (I gave a pass to anyone at 79).
  • But there are rising stars like Schmitz Park which is quietly building itself up. It had an 87.2% for writing, one of the highest scores in the city. Another school moving up is Olympic View. I looked back to 2003-04 and they have been steadily moving up in every subject. (They backslid last year to a 55.4% in math and yanked it back up all the way to 84.6%. They also have a pretty diverse population for a north end school.) Loyal Heights is another one with an 88.9% in math, 92.1 in reading and 77.8 in writing. Also, I shouldn't overlook West Woodland which has scores up and near the low 90s in reading and math. Van Asselt is a south end school that is doing well despite a free and reduced lunch rate of 83%; their writing score was 76.5% which was higher than Coe, AE 2, John Stanford and TOPS.
  • The oddities. One is that some schools that do well in reading and math can really surprise you by not doing well in writing. For example, Coe has an 82.5% in math, 88.9% in reading and 69.8% in writing. Same at Bagley which had 83% in math, 91.5% in reading and 66% in writing. Same example at Salmon Bay. It makes me wonder if some schools are focusing on math (which seems to be the current crisis in education) and the writing gets less.
  • Another oddity is the example of Bryant and AE 2. Both have fairly similar populations and free/reduced lunch. AE 2 has 296 students and Bryant 528. And yet while AE 2 is scoring at 94.3% in reading, their math score is 68.6% and writing is 68.6%. Bryant had a 92.4% in reading, 88.6% in math and 86.1 in writing.
  • North Beach scored an 91.9% in math, Lawton had a 90.7 and Wedgwood had a 94.4%. I know that North Beach was using Saxon math. I have to wonder what these schools are doing and if any of their best practices can be exported.
  • One of the most interesting things to note is that some schools do well in subject areas but may not be doing as well in their rate of passage for all 3 subject areas. For example, Olympic View is scoring well in all three individually (above 80%) but only 70.6% of their students pass all three. Bagley scores well in individual subjects and yet only 57.4% of their students pass all three subjects.
Other thoughts:
  • I noticed that New School's free/reduced lunch student population is going down. It was 51.3% in 2003-2004 and it's down to 40.4%. I did a spot check and didn't see that kind of drop in other schools.
  • I noticed on the OPSI page for each school that it lists the average number of years the teachers in that school have taught and how many have master's degrees. You hear quite a bit about less experienced and less educated teachers being posted to poorer performing schools. Doing a spot check of about 30 elementaries it looks like the average percentage for the number of teachers with a master's degree is about 58-60% (not bad). The average number of years teaching looks to be around 10. The highest I found for master's degrees (and this was just a spot check -someone else could be higher) is McGilvra at 85%. The lowest was West Woodland at 35% (with a somewhat low 9.1 years teaching experience).
I wasn't trying to pick on (or elevate) any school. This is just a rough snapshot of what is out there. And it is supposed to be a snapshot and not a badge of honor or disgrace. And yes, I realize that most of the high performing schools are in the north end. Yes, I realize that those schools are not as diverse and/or have fewer free/reduced lunch students. But that can't be an excuse for not showing progress. Steady progress is more important than a high score.

There's a lot of schools out there that are somewhere in the middle and may be coasting below the radar. To paraphase from Death of a Salesman, attention must be paid to each and every school in the district.


Anonymous said…
In comparing two schools like AE2 and Bryant- it's true that their FRL rates are similar.
However a few things are quite different.

Numbers for students in Special Education for example
9.6% at Bryant and 18.6 at Decatur.

Size of the school ( larger school = more money)
528 Bryant
296 Decatur

Its hard to read if we just look at one snapshot.
Well, just to play devil's advocate on AE 2, many people believe smaller schools do better. If that is true, AE 2 should be doing better. I just threw that out there as a comparison of similiar schools in the same region.
Anonymous said…
I have noticed the higher scores at North Beach,Whittier and Loyal Heights...why is this not the case with Greenwood Elementary??...the are in the same area yet this school continues to have low scores year after year.
Anonymous said…
I have a couple friends with kids at Olympic View. This school is out of their reference area but they chose it. Sounds like a wonderful community with lots of dedicated parents and teachers. Also, they buy down class size. These factors probably contribute to it's success.
Jet City mom said…
Yes I know some people believe that smaller schools are more successful- while we do see schools like the Center school doing OK, howabout MLK & Rainier Beach?
it isn't the size of the school-IMO- it is the size of the cohort that is involved and raises funds- puts efforts into programs.( obviously not the only thing)

Some of the schools have much more principal turn over which I think can really affect collaboration between teachers.

I believe that Olympic View ( which has had a strong tutoring program)has had the same principal for a really long time ( in this district)

Strong principals- who are in the classrooms as well as the halls can make a difference.
( I wish more schools would buy down class size with the i-728 $, I'd like to see a comparison between schools that use the money to reduce classes and those that have additional teacher training)

At Garfield for example the principal has been at school I expect of and on all summer- as have some staff including counselors-
it makes a difference-

contrast that to a school like Summit- which has had many changes over the past 10 years in administration, and where assignments(for elementary weren't mailed till Friday as they were hiring new teachers & didn't have that information-middle and high school students pick theirs up first day of school- not much opportunity for corrections)

There is a reason why some schools have turnover in parents/students and sometimes teachers-

A strong principal is needed for a clear focus and to set an example- without one- the classrooms too often drift on their own.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, I thought I'd comment on your "oddities" notation, comparing AEII and Bryant elementary scores. One of our children attended AEII k-5, and our other child attended AEII k-2 and Bryant for 3-5.

Our child who attended AEII was just as prepared for middle school math as our Bryant child. As a matter of fact, I think he has a better grasp of math, than does the Bryant child. The AEII child does it in his head, while the Bryant child needs pen and paper much more often. The AEII child is now in honors math in the Shoreline SD, where they chose to have him skip 7th grade math altogether, and go right into 8th grade honors math. The Bryant child is still at Bryant so we will see how he fares in MS.

AEII does not teach to the test. But, they teach, and teach well. They do not do the rote memorization of drills, but somehow my child mastered everything that he needed to know. I think AEII has lower scores not because their children are not as progressed as the Bryant kids, but because they do not teach to the test. No WASL drills, no test prep, nothing. They just teach their expeditionary philosophy and without any fanfare let the children take the WASL. They are one of the highest performing of all alternative schools.
Anonymous said…
If smaller schools do better, how does anyone explain how Eckstein has the highest test scores of all middle schools in the district. It is the largest middle school in the state, and larger than many comprehensive High schools.
Anonymous said…
The New School's FRL rate is going down a bit, probably because middle class families see it as a good option. Even with the recent decline in FRL rate, The New School remains very much representative of the Rainier Beach community it serves. The federal FRL cutoff for a family of four is $38,000 a year. The census data for tract that includes Rainier and Henderson shows that 37.5 percent of families in the area have an income of $39,999 or less.
Anonymous said…
Does anyone know anything about Green Lake? They are my neighborhood school, and seemed to have a pretty sure and steady achievement level, but this last year, the 4th grade WASL pass rate dropped 18% in Math, 19% in Reading, and 31% in Writing. I expect some normal fluctuations, but a significant drop in all three areas is a little alarming. It is a small school, so each percentage point translates into fewer kids than at a larger school, but still.......
Charlie Mas said…
The Small Schools Movement isn't about enrollment numbers hardly at all. In fact, very few of Seattle Public Schools are too big to be part of the Small Schools Movement.

For a school to be a Small School it has to be small by CHOICE, not out of unpopularity (as is the case with RBHS and was the case for MLK). In addition, the administration and the staff at the school have to adopt the critical elements of the Small Schools Movement, which are all about community and adults with responsibility for the progress of specific students - or something like that.

I'm not really up on it, but I do know that just because a school is small, that doesn't make it a Small School.
Charlie Mas said…
I think that part of memorandum of understanding between the New School Foundation and the District is that the New School will have an FRL rate not less than that of the District as a whole.

Could someone from The New School Foundation confirm that?

So far, it has not required any variation from the normal enrollment practice, but, if the trend continues, it might. At that time, the New School Foundation may or may not decide to press the issue.
Roy Smith said…
anonymous 1:11 brings up an interesting point: what is worthy of being considered a statistically significant variation in results from year to year, particularly for a small school? I don't have any formal training in statistics, so I myself don't know quite how to answer this question, but I know that with small sample sizes (under 50, in the case of a small elementary school) some pretty large variations still can fall in the bounds of "statistically insignificant".

Its also worth noting that when comparing across years, the comparison is made between one fourth grade class and another one; i.e., two separate groups of students. With a large population, this may be a valid way to measure progress, but when you get down to the individual elementary school size, trying to measure progress this way becomes a lot more problematic because a few students who are significantly ahead or behind can really skew the numbers.
Charlie Mas said…
If you want, you could accept the OSPI's "margin of error" for WASL scores. I don't know how these margins are derived, but if it isn't legitimate, then it is at least psuedo-legitimate. The OSPI's use of it lends the number credence if not confidence.

Now that students are taking the WASL in grades 3-8, you can, to a large extent, follow a cohort from year to year. Of course there are some changes in the population from grade to grade, but they aren't all that great for most schools. The OSPI's continually enrolled count will help you with knowing about changes in the student body.
Roy Smith said…
charlie mas said . . . Now that students are taking the WASL in grades 3-8, you can, to a large extent, follow a cohort from year to year.

Yes, you can, but that's not typically what is done. For instance, Melissa's post reports the 4th grade results as being representative for the entire school.

melissa westbrook wrote: Another school moving up is Olympic View. I looked back to 2003-04 and they have been steadily moving up in every subject. (They backslid last year to a 55.4% in math and yanked it back up all the way to 84.6%.

If you track by cohort, there is no "backsliding" or "yanking it back up": 2006-07's 4th grade class also got high scores when they were 3rd graders, and 2005-06's 4th grade class (the backsliders) also didn't do so well when they were 5th graders. In fact, the scores are remarkably consistent and steady (and not noticeably improving) if the data is analyzed by grade cohort rather than assuming 4th grade represents the entire school.
Anonymous said…
Charlie asked about the partnership agreement between the New School Foundation and SPS re free/reduced lunch. Here's the language from the agreement: "The purpose of this partnership is to provide outstanding educational opportunities and an exemplary public school for all students, including and especially low income students...To assure that low income families continue to comprise no less than 45% of the New School student population, the Parties will explore student assignment innovations..." So, we are hopeful that the new student assignment plan can help assure continued access to the school by low income families. But the most important thing the school district, school and foundation can do in support of this goal is lots of outreach in the Rainier Beach neighborhood.
Anonymous said…
What can these numbers possibly mean when the students/families who opt out (which I suspect is a higher ratio in alternative schools) of the test count as a "O" score against the school? Why is that not factored in, why punish the school?
Charlie Mas said…
If you check the detail data on the OSPI site you can get the numbers for all students or just for students who took the test. Both rates are available.

The OSPI site even divides the students who didn't take the test into groups.

People who want to account for refusals and opt-outs can do so.
Anonymous said…
RE: AE2 Decature vs Bryant.

"Numbers for students in Special Education for example
9.6% at Bryant and 18.6 at Decatur."

The special ed population at AE2 includes three severe needs autism programs. These students do not take the WASL. So whatever difference having these students in the building (they are basically locked away all day), it is moot when it comes to WASL's. Also, "larger school = more money" but also = more kids to teach ... so that also is a fairly meaningless comment.

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