Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WASL Scores Released

The 2007 WASL pass rates for schools and districts were released yesterday. Be very careful when drawing conclusions from this data.

There is no attribution analysis that comes with these pass rates, so please remember that there are a number of factors that contribute to a student's results on the WASL and that the school is only a minor factor, not a determining factor. Stronger factors include the student's home and the student's teachers. For example, the pass rates at Chief Sealth High School are markedly higher this year than in previous years. Is that due to a change in the teaching and learning at Chief Sealth or is it primarily due to the recent introduction of International Baccalaureate classes there? Now that Sealth is offering IB classes, the school is attracting more high performing students. The improvement in pass rates at Sealth wasn't caused by a change in the student's classes but a change in the class of student. I remember a few years ago there was a teacher at the African American Academy who, through her personal and heroic efforts, got about 80% of her 4th grade class to pass all three tests. The test results for the 4th grade students in the other class were more like the historical pass rates for the rest of the school and the rest of the school's history. In the following year when the teacher had a third grade class (the AAA looped third and fourth grade), the school's pass rates for 4th graders returned to their usual levels. The pass rate didn't reflect the school's efforts or improvement, but the extraordinary effort of an individual teacher.

Be careful of any trend analysis. I would suggest that instead of comparing this year's 4th grade pass rate with last year's fourth grade pass rate, that you compare it instead with last year's third grade pass rate. Be wary of anyone who touts improvement from one fourth grade class to the next. Those are two different cohorts. If you follow the class of 2013 from the fourth grade in 2005 their pass rates in math have been 59.1% in the fourth grade, 57.0% in the fifth grade, 49.7% in the sixth grade, and 51.4% this past year in the seventh grade. This trend is downward but it may have stopped dropping. In reading that class' pass rates were 77.3%, 76.3%, 67.0%, and 62.3% - a steady and continuing decline. In writing their pass rates were 57.6% in the fourth grade and 72.4% in the seventh grade, a real improvement. Other cohorts have shorter records that we can follow (two or three years instead of four) but their trends are generally flat or down.

Finally, be careful about claims regarding "growth" in the pass rates. According to a press release from the District, the pass rate on the 4th grade writing test "jumped" 20 percentage points at the AAA. First, that compares two different cohorts. These kids didn't take the test as third graders, so there is no pass rate to see change. Second, even after the "jump" the pass rate is a pitiful 46.2% while the District average is 62.6% on that test (down from 66.6% in the previous year). The press release also touts a 20 percentage point "jump" in the pass rates on the 6th grade reading test to 56.8%. The pass rate for these students as fifth graders (neglecting changes in the cohort) was 45.7%. The pass rate district-wide for sixth graders in reading was 70.9%, well above even the improved rates at the AAA. You don't see improvements of 10 or 20 percentage points at schools where the pass rate is above-average because these schools often don't have room for 10 or 20 percentage points of improvement. These "improvements" are often well within the margin for error on the WASL and therefore cannot be regarded at statistically significant anyway. There may not be any actual improvement, it may all be due to assessment error.

I'm not saying these changes in the pass rates aren't real and I'm not saying that increased pass rates aren't good. They are real and increases are good. I'm saying let's not presume any conclusions from them without some attribution analysis - of which there is none.


reader said...

Where are they posted?

Charlie Mas said...

The WASL scores can be viewed on the OSPI web site on the School Report Card page.

snaffles said...

Is the WASL a measurement to tell if a school has improved or if an individual student has improved, or students in certain grades have improved? What does the WASL actually measure and why?

The way it is explained by Charlie it seems that the only true way to know if there is improvement is to compare the students scores from grade to grade (3rd to 4th etc). But it seems the way the improvements were measured by the Board is grade by grade(4th to 4th)

I had doubts about the WASL already, this makes me think it has a long way to go, to measure anything.

Perhaps High School students could take a GED and if they pass, they get a diploma. Sounds simpler to me.

Charlie Mas said...

The WASL was never intended to measure anything about individual students. The WASL was intended to measure the effectiveness of schools and districts. Consequently, any use of WASL scores to make any sort of decisions about individual students is misguided and inappropriate. It says so in the technical notes for the test.

Yet the WASL is used to determine high school graduation. This is a BIG mistake. As snaffles wrote, we don't need a test to determine if student know what we expect a high school graduate to know. We already had a test for that: the GED.

Can the WASL measure school improvement? Not very well. The WASL is a snapshot. It tells where a school is in a single given moment in time. As such, it is a poor way to measure change. As I described in my post, there are a number of factors that can influence a school's pass rates that have nothing to do with the quality of teaching and leaning that are happening at the school. Right now, the primary numerical determinant of a student's WASL score is the gross income of the student's family. Shifts in student assignment patterns have more to do with changes in WASL scores than shifts in curricula or teaching practices.

Even without changes in patterns there can be patterns of change. Some schools have highly transient populations - lots of students transferring in and out all the time. There are schools where up to a third of the student body changes in the course of the year. How could that school's WASL scores indicate anything about the quality of teaching and learning happening there? Even if we were to compare the pass rates of this year's sixth graders at the African-American Academy with the pass rates of last year's fifth graders, they are not the same students. Of the 410 students at the school in 2006-2007, 98 had transferred either in or out. Of those 98, about 10 had transferred both in and out during that year. Only 64.7% of the students who had been enrolled at the school in the previous year (not counting graduating 8th graders) returned for the 2006-2007 school year. With these kind of changes in the population, the year over year WASL data is meaningless.

Accept the WASL pass rates for what they are, but don't presume that they mean anything more unless you consider other factors that could contribute to the changes.

Think of this: what if the District relocates a Spectrum program? What if the District were to move the Spectrum program for the West Seattle middle school region from Denny to Madison? All of a sudden, a bunch of students who we can be certain will pass the WASL will leave Denny and appear at Madison. We would expect Denny's pass rate to dip and Madison's to rise. Would this, in any way, reflect changes in the quality of teaching or learning at either of these schools? Would Madison deserve any recognition from the state for the increase? Would Denny deserve any sanctions for their drop? What if Lowell were repurposed as a neighborhood school? The pass rates would probably drop. Does that mean that the teachers at Lowell all suddenly forgot how to teach or that the school suddenly became ineffective? Of course not.

Don't automatically attribute changes to any presumed source without some kind of attribution analysis. The WASL does not come with attribution analysis, you have to provide your own.

Dorothy Neville said...

The data everyone would like to have is called Value-Added. Certainly computers are sophisticated enough to track individual kids from year to year. With good assessments and good value-added analysis, one would be able to pinpoint which teachers help kids make the most gains in a given year. Certainly any assessment given over one or a few days is imperfect, but averaged over 20-30 kids, one would get something meaningful at a teacher level.

However, the person who 'invented' value-added assessment has a proprietary formula and makes his living making these assessments. This adds cost (? --- maybe) and complication to getting the data. (For more information, I bet you could check Wikipedia. Tennessee has contracted for value added assessments for years.) I do not know enough about copyright law or statistics to know why this is a complete impediment to creating one's own methodology.

Several years ago, the Seattle School district got a hefty three year grant from a foundation to collect value added data. I have no idea why they bothered, because they ran into many complications and never did anything meaningful with the data.

One complication was that kids weren't being given comparable assessments year by year. It would be sort of like measuring growth by some years using a scale and some years using a yardstick, then trying to determine which years showed the most growth.

Now kids are given the same assessment, but it's the WASL, which is less well suited to a value-added assessment than a norm-referenced assessment.

Also, way back when this data was being collected (again, I don't know who in the district pursued the grant and wanted the info) we were told that they were not even creating analysis on a teacher level (much less making it public), just a school level, because of the teacher's union. If I remember correctly, it was June Rimmer who said that. I may have that wrong.

You can still see this data on the district website, and while limited, it is still interesting. Schools that we think of as high performing, like Bryant, added value a lot less than the district average. Is that because the assessments don't measure high performers with enough distinction or because the school gets lots of nicely behaved, well-fed kids and doesn't really push them to their potential?

On the other hand, Summit showed higher than district average in adding value. Why? How? I've always thought that sort of thing was worth investigating.

Thanks, Charlie for the clear explanation of this year's wasl results. I had just skimmed the newpaper articles, saw Sealth mentioned in both, but not the reminder of how the population is changing. Perhaps it was there and I missed it? Or perhaps you are the only writer to offer a thoughtful analysis.

reader said...

Ok. Let's use the thing the way it was designed. It seems OSPI has just released the 2007-2008 list of schools making AYP, adequate yearly progress, under NCLB. Some of the schools have a "step" category number, some do not. Does anybody know why some of these failing schools do not have a number and/or what that implies? It looks like the ones without a step number are the new failing schools. Every single middle school is failing to meet AYP. Last year, every single full service high school failed to meet AYP. However, the Center School HS does meet AYP.

What does it imply for students? Are parents able to transfer their children to Center School if they are in a high school not meeting AYP? What about others? Does your school have to be a title 1 school to be allowed a transfer? Only elementary schools are title 1, so that's a bit of a raw deal for middle and high schoolers in failing schools. Does it matter what "step" the school is in? What if they are in no step? Thanks for the info if you've got it.

Jet City mom said...

Does your school have to be a title 1 school to be allowed a transfer? Only elementary schools are title 1, so that's a bit of a raw deal for middle and high schoolers in failing schools

I believe that Title 1 money is distributed through 8th grade. Anyway, Summit K-12 had a Title 1 support class for middle schoolers when my daughter attended.

I see that Ingraham is now labled in step 5

I am very curious to know what the districts procedure is for step 5 schools.

Step 5, 64 schools
In this step, the school is required to institute “school restructuring” as defined in the school’s restructuring plan. The school must provide documentation that at least one of the
following actions has been taken:
• Replace school staff members, which may include the school principal, who are relevant to the school's inability to meet standards.
• Enter into a contract with an entity with a demonstrated record of effectiveness, to operate the school.
• Implement other restructuring activities that are consistent with the principles of restructuring.
The district must continue to provide technical assistance that emphasizes (a) the importance of improving instruction by using strategies grounded in scientifically-based research so
that all students achieve proficiency in the core academic subjects of reading and mathematics, and (b) the importance of analyzing and applying data in decision-making. The school
must also continue to offer public school choice and supplemental services to all eligible students.

I also cannot BELIEVE that Summit still rates so low in math after years of supposedly intensive focus on math classes.
They need intensive outside intervention or else let the two or three teachers who actually can teach math- bring in outside help.
They are really doing the students a disservice- and talking about how the WASL is not a good measure/not being used for it's original intent- yadda-yadda, is all well & good, but it takes the attention away from what isn't happening.

me on 28th Ave SW said...

I agree with Charlie regarding Sealth's improved scores on the WASL. In fact, when I read the results yesterday, I cringed because I thought "Oh great, now the chest-beating will start". My child goes to Sealth, and while I think it is a fine school for my child, I don't want a false sense of bravado to overtake the district administration especially on the heels of the essentially forced Denny-Sealth co-location. I can almost hear it now...."Denny/Sealth represents the future for SPS.." blah, blah, blah. The reality is that a new group of high-achievers "took a chance" on Sealth because of the IB program and my child is one of them. Many of these 9th graders took the WASL last spring to get it out of the way (except for Science which they can only take as 10th graders). More than DOUBLE the number of students took the WASL spring 2008 at Sealth compared to spring 2007. At a PTA meeting the day after the school board's Denny/Sealth approval vote I (still smarting with disappointment) made the statement to the principal and PTSA attendants that I was upset that a large percentage of the parents of the students at Sealth had not been listened to, and that by essentially alienating those families the school was risking losing the exact students they had fought so hard to attract; the ones that will raise their WASL scores. At the time, I am sure that it seemed like an arrogant statement that "polite company" does not discuss, but I still feel that it is true. Those WASL scores do not reflect the HUGE number of freshman that, as of May 2008 were not going to move on to the 10th grade this fall....

Christina said...

Sorry to be off-topic:

What's the URL for the Web page that tells one what one's Seattle Public Schools reference middle school and high school are? I know I've encountered it before...

Charlie Mas said...

Lots of good questions. Let's see which I can answer.

"Does anybody know why some of these failing schools do not have a [step] number and/or what that implies?"
Schools have to fail to meet AYP two years in a row to enter Step 1. If a school failed this year but is not in a step, that school made AYP last year.

"Does your school have to be a title 1 school to be allowed a transfer?"
Yes. Sanctions only fall on Title I schools. In Seattle, the Title I money used to only go to elementary schools. Now it goes to middle schools as well, but it still doesn't go to high schools, so no Seattle high schools ever face sanctions under NCLB.

"Does it matter what "step" the school is in?"
Yes. The prescribed sanctions are different at each step. Among the sanctions are allowing students to transfer to other schools, paying for tutoring services for students, and, eventually, restructuring the school. In addition, each school in the "steps" must draft and implement a school improvement plan. In Seattle, this plan is the School Transformation Plan.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a resource for information about the "steps" of District and School Improvement.

Charlie Mas said...

According to what I have read, when Aki Kurose and the AAA entered step 4 of sanctions last year, the District was required to write restructuring plans for each school describing what they would do if the school failed to make AYP in 2007 and slipped to step 5. These plans are supposed to already be written so they can be implemented immediately.

So what are the restructuring plans for Aki Kurose and the AAA and what do they call for? Where can people get copies of them? When will they be implemented?

zb said...

Comparing 3rd & 4th graders only makes sense if you think the cohorts stayed the same those two years. I'd expect that's quite variable, and that the variability in cohort would be inversely correlated with the SES level of the school (because poor people are more likely to move).

So comparing 3rd & 4th doesn't do what I think you're trying to get at (how individual students improved. I'd like this entire process a lot better if we tracked individual students.

SolvayGirl said...

Three years ago, I went to the trouble to review my daughter's WASL. She had passed all the levels, but not as well as I had hoped in the writing portion (private testing showed her to have excellent language skills). Aside from the series of hoops I had to go through to see her test, I was appalled at the lack of information I could glean from it.

The math portion wasn't too bad. I could see which questions gave her problems, where she gave only one example when they asked for two, etc.

The writing portion however was a mystery. She got a 3 out of 5. Her teachers all consider her a very good writer. I am a professional writer and often her harshest critic. I read her narrative and found it to be creative, well structured and had correct punctuation and grammar. I couldn't see why it did not get a 4 at least. I will never know though since there were NO comments from the grader—not one editing mark or explanation as to why it only earned an average score.

Since few people (including the teachers) see these tests and their comments, I guess it's a moot point. But to me, it illustrates exactly what is lacking with the WASL—a way to help individual students and/or teachers know what they need to improve.

In my opinion, the test is worthless from all viewpoints. It does not give a true picture of anything other than, as Charlie noted, a snapshot of that particular class on that particular day. The fact that it is being used as a graduation requirement borders on criminal!

reader said...

The pathetic reality of these outcomes is that the failing schools are EXACTLY, except for one, where all the new special ed programs of June 2008 were put. We suppose it is not news that special ed is used to bump up enrollments in schools that have space going wanting, but sending them into schools that are known to be not meeting their academic goals is very troubling. It is like the district is saying, well, these kids won't know the difference anyway.

reader said...

Of course, and why not? If a school is going to fail, then let's load it up with the disabled kids and fail it bigtime. What would the consequence be? Oh yeah, let's "restructure" the school. Whipty do. Doesn't that mean something like "you be the principal" and "I'll be the band teacher" and "you can be the super-dee-duper counselor" ? Look ma, restructured! Would that qualify as "restructuring"?

Charlie Mas said...

Until we can get a look at the restructing plans for the two schools that are supposed to be restructured this year, I don't think any of us can say what would qualify as "restructuring". One of the schools got a new principal last year, a new principal this year and will get a new principal next year. The other one also got a new principal last year.

Perhaps now the District can withstand the political backlash that will surely come when they close the AAA. Or maybe they will restructure it by reducing it to a K-5 and relocating it to the T T Minor building.

Ah! That would leave the AAA building empty. So all they would have to do is move The New School into the AAA building. Then they could make the new building at Southshore into a 6-8 middle school and that would allow them to close Aki Kurose.

That would restructure both of the step 5 schools and allow them to save money by closing a building that was due for renovation.

taylor said...

It is my understanding that it may not be legal ot load school with up to 30% of special ed students because of low enrollment. Many of these over-loaded locations are at schools who are not making AYP and may have large populations of special ed students taking the alternative WASL. In essence, the district could then make a case that the school could not be held to NCLB AYP standards because of high special ed numbers. It is also my understanding that these parents i.e. Ingrams Autism program, may have federal complaint recourse and the district could be "dinged" by the feds. In fact this may be in the works? Does anyone know?

speducator said...

To me on 28th Ave SW: You are exactly right! The chest-beating was in high gear on the teachers' first day back at Sealth. And, contrary to Charlie's post, the rationale for the improvements......THE TEACHERS!

Granted, the teachers did put a lot of effort into the WASL --but they always do. I wonder what will happen if the test scores go down next year. Then, of course it will be the fault of the teachers.

Regarding the special education students. The WASL is a terrible test for anyone, but it should NEVER be administered to special ed students. Most of those students already feel badly about their disability, but when you base their graduation on a high-stakes test such as the WASL, many of them have already given up before the test is given, and will either not try, not come to schoool, or drop out.

The other thing I learned at the OSPI Summer Institute, is that there are only two tests given to Special Education students that count towards AYP - the WASL, and the WAAS. The DAW (Developmentally Appropriate WASL), and the WASL Basic, do not count towards AYP.

Very few sped kids can pass the actual WASL. This means that statistically, the more sped kids a school has, the lower the AYP.

As a sped teacher, I have had students who are artistic geniuses, and could take apart a car and put it together amazingly fast. Many of them just learn and absorb information differently.

Although I have some cynicism about Goodloe-Johnson's plan to place 13% of sped students at each school, at least it might help to more equitably spread out the WASL scores.

I personally don't see how she's going to accomplish her goal. Sealth has gained three new self-contained special ed classrooms this year. We were already above the district average.

I think it's important that we figure out a way for these kids to graduate with dignity. I'd like to see the statistics on how many special education students drop out district-wide.

AutismMom said...

The documented "culture of low expectations" is alive and well at Seattle Public Schools, and now we see just how low it really is!70% of special education students have IQ's average or better.... and yet, we have special ed teachers, who still believe students can't succeed.. AND who still believe that they shouldn't even try. Why bother prepare them if they're just destined to fail no matter what? Great, let's get all those art geniuses to draw some pretty pictures!

And yet, we have lots of schools, where students with disabilities are doing well. Here's a school and here's another one where nearly 80% of the special education students pass ALL the subjects of the WASL. And that's the real WASL. Here's a school with level 4, severely disabled students, where a respectable 50% of the disabled kids pass the all the subjects of the real WASL. It's hard to find these examples because the school must have more than 10 students to get the OSPI data. But guess what? These schools are all meeting AYP. It is possible. If all these disabled kids can pass the WASL, what's the excuse for your school? I think you need to re-evaluate your approach. What's the excuse for the teachers of kids who aren't disabled?

Yes, the WASL has been misused. Yes, it probably shouldn't be a graduation requirement. Yes, it's too inflexible to allow many students with disabilities to demonstrate their skills. But the good thing is, it does add accountability where none had been before. And believe me, at my kid's school, the staff puts in a ton of effort to help ALL students meet standard. If students with disabilities could "opt out", the staff would probably not try. So, please don't give up on your students.

TechyMom said...

KUOW's The Conversation is talking about "Failing Schools and NCLB," starting in one minute.

reader said...

If you actually look at the high school breakdowns, special education isn't the cause of any school's failure to meet AYP. And in particular, special ed isn't even a contributing factor to Sealth's failure to make AYP as one poster suggests. Special education students are a contributing factor in only 3 school's failure to meet AYP: Roosevelt, Ballard, and Ingraham. It's pretty easy to blame disabled students for the failure of their schools, or even the failure of other students, but the reports show otherwise.

Here's the breakdown, available on the web, of groups failing to meet AYP goals at each high school:

Sealth: Hispanics fail math only. ELL don't participate. (special ed are too few)

Garfield: Blacks and Low Income. (too few special ed)

Cleveland: All, Blacks, and Low Income. (too few special ed)

Ranier Beach: All, Blacks and Low Income. (too few special ed)

Roosevelt: Special Ed do fail. ELL don't participate.

Ballard: Special ED and Low Income fail math only. Hispanics don't participate.

Ingraham: All, Black, ELL, Special Ed, fail math only.

West Seattle:All, Black, Low Income, fail math only. (special ed too few)

teacher99 said...

As the ELL math teacher at Sealth the last 4 years (but no longer there after the Denny-Sealth Facilities/Board fiasco) I can give some additional information so readers can have more context. Interpretations can vary - even as close to the data I have been, I'd want to get a look on a student by student basis to be more comfortable in certain more controversial opinions which I'm mostly avoiding here.

Reader says "ELL don't participate". I'd note that the #s show 34 students took the WASL. Assuming 10th graders are about 25% of the ELL population that suggests a Sealth ELL population of about 132. The actual was about 150 as I recall so it looks like they were taking it. Lacking credits is a common immigrant problem and as many 9th grade (credit-wise) immigrants are 17, 18 and even 19 years old I am certain that ELL students at Sealth are taking the test at comparative rates to other groups.

What was interesting, however, was that 8 had their tests not count for the category of incomplete tests/missing booklets, etc. I suspect some students, due to English language issues, created these problems by either not completing sections or misplacing tests, or other basic test-taking skill issues.

As a curious sidenote, some of our ELL population winds up taking Calculus while still not passing the WASL (although by then missing by scoring high 380s/390s and thus missing by 1-3 questions).

I was also worried last year as we had an increase in very dedicated Somali immigrants but whose starting skills were further behind than normal. Many catch up somewhat by working harder than most students, but some never even had formal schooling until 4th grade, lived in refugee camps or due to migratory work have had as many schools as military kids.

I also am unsure what the "hispanics fail math only" statement means in comparison to other Sealth groups last year. Compared to other groups the sad truth is that most groups (ethnic, income level, even male/female) fail math consistently more frequently than reading/writing. In turn, students generally fail science even worse, but in part our inability to get math skills across makes it difficult for the science teachers to pass along science skills effectively.

Sealth has taken pride in serving the ELL population from the principal on down. The ELL teachers and IAs are great (I only taught 2 classes for them out of 5) They are part of why Sealth's ELL population is so large. ELL students help the headcount for budgets at the start of each year, but then hurt when WASL scores come out.

I have not yet looked at the AYP report and am not as familiar with the SPED #s reader is researching - I'm glad the in-depth review is occurring. The crazy thing is, as Charlie and others earlier warned of and reader is also demonstrating, looking into the #s in detail is informative and yet maddening as they only reveal so much and thus many comments based on the #s must still be taken with a grain of salt. That includes those who praise themselves as well as those who only use the #s to "diss" the schools.

Oh, Dorothy's reference to the "value-added" reports is key. What happens to a cohort over time, as the value-added reports used to track, statistically is way more accurate to interpreting if instruction is on task or not. It also minimizes abuses by some schools/departments/teachers (some, not many I believe) in improving their scores by finding creative ways to manipulate their populations. We often look at this WASL data in too much of a single-variable (univariate) format instead of multivariate time-based formats. I don't know about how it was done or the proprietary software issue - statistically speaking it seems just like tracking the student ID key in a relational database carefully. Not simple but not rocket science either.

Please continue to poke around with the #s as many of us will too as time permits.

reader said...

Thanks Teacher99.

The link for OSPI's data on AYP for Sealth High School is on this link. This year we've heard all sorts of excuses for failing schools, and it usually boils down to blaming the disabled kids. Or "they just expected too much", when scores have actually gone down at lots of schools. So, I'm just looking at the actual reasons. My format was abbrieviated. As you can see on the website, Hispanics failed math, and Hispanics failed to meet the "participation goal" in reading and math. Limited English, a category, failed to meet "participation goal" in reading. There weren't enough special ed to even be measured as a separate category at Sealth. The populations with enough membership to count, Blacks, Whites, ALL, and Low Income... all met their goals for performance and participation. I don't understand the formula for setting the goals, but these are the basic results.

Lots of schools had groups failing math only, in either performance or participation. I think this is really good news. Since the math WASL isn't required to graduate, you can imagine lots of kids not caring about this particular, not so great, exam... and skipping it or failing as a consequence. At 2 schools, Ballard and Ingraham, they DO have adequate special ed to count, AND, Ballard and Ingraham's sped kids DO meet their goals for reading. That's a terrific accomplishment for those schools and students. And the math doesn't count, so good for the kids, even if it contributed to their school's AYP failure.

dan dempsey said...

Teacher99 said:

Since the math WASL isn't required to graduate, you can imagine lots of kids not caring about this particular, not so great, exam... and skipping it or failing as a consequence.

I think the problem is poor skills not motivation. If a student does not pass the Math WASL, they keep taking math classes as long as they are in school.

In Math at grade 10 there has been an increase in the % of below level 2 scores over the last three years (level 1 + no scores etc.)

Year -passing%- lev 4% - below lev 2

06 .. 51.0 .....18.4 .....26.1%

07 .. 50.4 ... 18.3 .... 29.9%

08 .. 49.3 ... 17.5 ... 35.4%

How screwed up is this?
If you only look at passing percent over the last three years not much change.
Let us take a look at the clueless level of below level 2.

Pretty much what one would expect from Bureau of Indian Ed data on what happens when Direct Instruction is ignored. Terry Bergeson continues to head in the wrong direction Reform Math and Seattle has followed her lead.

The WASL has a huge variety of problems (in regard to reliability and validity etc.) and tells us very little about what content students know in any subject. We know nothing about actual high school math content knowledge of our students.
In Math the question now becomes will Seattle actually follow the new math standards or continue with the plan of just meticulously following the Everyday Math pacing guide?

Hopefully the New Math Program manager Anna-Maria dela Fuente will be a wonderful asset to the district.

dan dempsey said...

HERE are Seattle Scores:

Year -passing%- lev 4% - below lev 2

06 .. 55.7 ... 23.3 .....23.8%

07 .. 50.2 ... 21.2 .... 34.9%

08 .. 50.3 ... 24.6 .... 36.7%

Seattle has a larger proportion of Level 4 than the State but unfortunately the same situation in below level 2 math scores.

Teachermom said...

There are plenty of non-special ed. kids with average to above average IQ's who are not passing all three parts of the WASL.

The WASL is not an IQ test.

Saying that a student in special ed. should pass the WASL just because their IQ is average or above just doesn't make sense.

Special ed. students can fail portions of the WASL if they decline to use the accommodations specified by the IEP team. And there is nothing a teacher can do about that, other than to encourage that they use them the next time.

AutismMom said...

I wasn't suggesting that the WASL is an IQ test, or that it's some sort of automatic pass for kids of "average or better IQ's". There are lots and lots of reasons anybody can fail. Weak language skills is one. Kids can fail even if they do use the prescribed accommodations.

I was responding to a special ed teacher who posits that special ed. students simply can't pass the WASL, none of them (or very few)... and that they shouldn't even try. And that schools shouldn't bother to prepare them. Basically schools should totally wash their hands of any responsibility at all. Yes, there are students who cognitively won't be able to do WASL-level work, but that is the minority. We need a MUCH HIGHER bar of accountability in special education, not some sort of freebie. We definitely don't have the perfect solution for our disabled students, but we've got keep trying to prepare students for the absolute highest levels that they can achieve.

And we don't want any big loopholes in our accountability. Similar to keeping poorly performing students in 9th grade forever, we could start shoving them into special ed to avoid the WASL. These both already happen to some extent.

speducator said...

To autismmom:

I repudiate your remarks and the inference that I practice a "culture of low expectations" in my classroom. You don't know me, and you have no idea what kind of expectations I have for my students. This is a forum for many diverse opinions, and has no place in it for prejudice and snarky remarks. Here's what you said:

"The documented "culture of low expectations" is alive and well at Seattle Public Schools, and now we see just how low it really is!70% of special education students have IQ's average or better.... and yet, we have special ed teachers, who still believe students can't succeed.. AND who still believe that they shouldn't even try."

My students this year do no take the WASL. They will be "given" the WAAS portfolio. The term given is a misnomer because it is the teacher who creates the portfolio. If the teacher does a bad job of putting together the portfolio, the student fails. How is that a fair representation of what a student knows?

Second of all, it has been my observation that many special education students do not show up to take the WASL in High School. They are not my students, but I've heard other sped teachers' frustrations.

I did NOT say in my post that sped students should not try or can't succeed.

I have very high expectations for my students who have IQ's between 35 and 55. I just happen to think that the WASL or WAAS is a bad test. There are many assessments for these students that present a much better representation of their abilties, but because of NCLB and the state assessments, we are forced to use a one-size-fits all test.

I'm all for accountability, but it doesn't have to be the WASL. These students all have IEP's (Individual Education Programs), and they have them for a reason. If you have a high functional Asperger's Syndrome student, maybe, and I say, maybe, the WASL would be appropriate. The IEP team, which includes the parent, the teacher, an administrator and a general ed teacher (and possibly others) should decide what assessment is the best one for the student.

We all have diverse opinions about the WASL and what's best for kids. Let's be respectful.

AutismMom said...

The WASL is a terrible test for anyone, but it should NEVER be administered to special ed students.

... but Marlene, that is what you posted.

Just as people don't know you, you don't know all students. The problem with blanket statements like this, it fits right into the existing culture of low expectations for people with disabilites, even if you have high expectations in your class. We, who live this, have to deal with these low expectations every day. There is a huge problem for students with low cognitive abilities. And expectations are very low. But, I agree that neither the WAAS, WASL, or some IEP checklist will be able to measure that a student (or school) has effectively taught a student adequately.

hschinske said...

Marlene, I'm confused: do you mean that you happen to teach *only* students who have IQs between 35 and 55? or are you referring only to a subset of your students?

I think part of the general point here (and I'm not really addressing Marlene any longer, as she presumably knows all this) is that there are so many reasons why a student may fall under special ed, as may be seen at https://www.seattleschools.org/area/speced/disabilities.htm; it's obvious that many of those conditions don't affect one's true ability to process information, though they may require that one do so in unusual ways that require a lot of help. But one simply can't put all special ed students into one category as far as readiness for the WASL goes.

Naturally, the fact that the WASL is a poorly designed test in general, and difficult to adapt for various special needs, is no help either.

Helen Schinske

AutismMom said...

By the way, if you think the terminology "culture of low expectations" is somehow an expression of my snarkiness, I assure you it isn't. Read the district's special education review. It is available on SPS website. That is exactly how disabled student's education in Seattle was described by the district's own review.

dan dempsey said...

The fourth grade Math WASL results are particularly shocking, as they dropped 4.7% on a year to year basis.

What is going on?
There are much larger problems than this 4.7% drop...read on potential statistical scholars. There was a drop of 16.2% for these fourth graders' scores from their scores as third graders one year ago.

Since NCLB sanctions are WASL linked, I have to ask what is going on at OSPI that we still have this lame test in place.


Grade Level..Reading : Math
3rd Grade .. 70.9% : 69.6%

4th Grade .. 76.6% : 58.1%
5th Grade .. 71.9% : 59.5%

Grade Level Reading Math
3rd Grade 70.4% 68.3%

4th Grade 72.3% 53.4%

5th Grade 75.3% 61.0%

Statewide drop = 69.6% - 53.4% = 16.2%

reader said...

Back to sanctions. Has anybody noticed that now ALL middle schools are failing. Including ALL K-8's. So, if a student is in a K-8 that receives title 1 funds... is that school subject to sanctions? Are the kids in 6-8 eligible for relief? Obviously, they can't request a transfer out of their failing school and into a passing school... none are passing. BUT, can middle schoolers in failing k-8's have school funded tutors? Do you have to be "low income"? That's quite a rip-off requirement. EG. If you're poor you get a tutor, for everyone else, sorry private school. And, how is the tutoring?

SolvayGirl said...

Doesn't this really speak to the poor quality of the math curriculum? Is the District and the State just burying its collective head in the sand on this?
How do tutors teach? Do they stick with the school's curriculum? Or, do they teach the math facts and formulas students really need to succeed?

Dorothy Neville said...

Solvaygirl: "How do tutors teach? Do they stick with the school's curriculum? Or, do they teach the math facts and formulas students really need to succeed?"

An even more interesting question is: How do math team coaches teach? The best and the brightest that join after school clubs and compete get coached in math by some great teachers and parent volunteers. What do they do? (hint, think algorithms, not learn your own math.)

Maureen said...

Re math scores, I expect scores would drop whenever the curriculum changes: it takes a while for the teachers to get comfortable with the new system and learn how to supplement it for their population (please don't read this as a defense of Everyday Math!).

Re transfers under AYP failures. I gather that the K-8 my kid attends has had to add some kids this year in middle school (and maybe other grades?) because their schools weren't making AYP (and the bigger 'desirable' MSs were swamped with transfers). This will push some MS class sizes to (past?) the contractual max of 32 (they have generally been running at 30 per class).

Looking at the OSPI website, it looks like our school didn't make AYP itself (as reader pointed out) tho every group met proficiency goals in every subject except special ed in reading, is that why we didn't meet AYP? This whole process is so confusing to me.

reader said...

Maureen, there seems to be some confusion. NO students have been tranferred from failing middle schools under NCLB. Your class size increases must be caused by something else. People already could transfer out of alternative K-8's. Presumably everyone in an alternative school, selected it because they like it. (except for special ed, who get no choice) No traditional K-8's are failing and also in step 1... and no garden variety middle, 6-8, schools received Title 1 funds. So that means that nobody has the right, under NCLB, to transfer out of middle schools.... yet. The question is next year, when/if a bunch of K-8's ARE in step 1, and people are placed where they don't want to be, will the middle school aged students have the right to transfer out of their step-1, failing, Title 1 school? My guess is NO, unless there is a passing school to transfer into. If 1 middle school like TOPS or Blaine, does make AYP, because they are close, will everyone in a failing K-8 have the right to transfer in? Will they have the right to tutors?

Now, looking at the failing K-8's. Schools can fail for participation or performance as a whole or in part, or both. Here's why they each failed (and this is simply the facts, no interpretation):

AAA. ALL, black, and low income fail math.

AS1. ALL, white, sped, low income fail math. Sped, low income fail reading.

Broadview Thompson. Black, ELL, low income fail math. Hispanic, ELL, low income fail reading.

Blaine. Sped fails math.

Madrona. ALL, black, sped, low income fail math. Sped fails reading.

Salmon Bay. Sped, low income fail math. Low income fail reading.

Pathfinder. ALL, sped fail math. Sped fails reading.

TOPs. Sped fail reading.

reader said...

It looks possible that middle school students enrolled at AAA, Broadview Thompson, and Madrona would get the right to transfer into TOPs or Blaine under NCLB, assuming these schools were able to make AYP. Or even other middle schools that are close to making it. What would the district do then? Put in portables?

reader said...

Ooops. I guess I spoke too soon. Maureen is right. It looks like students have had the right to transfer out of Madrona and into a non-failing middle school in 2006-07. They could have transfered into TOPs, Eckstein, or Blaine. And why wouldn't they? I would!

Maureen said...

But is there a limit to the transfers? Must nonfailing schools accept students only up to the contractual maximum class size (32 I believe)? Past that point? How far? Can they be required to add portables? Do any resources follow these students; tutors etc. Or do they lose those benefits when they switch to 'successful' schools?

reader said...

You could imagine somebody purposefully selecting Madrona or AAA, both failing and Title 1 schools, knowing the district would have to transfer them to somewhere else that was NOT failing. If they just wound up at regular old failing middle school... well, they wouldn't have any rights to transfer anywhere.

Charlie Mas said...

The right to transfer is predicated on the receiving school having room. Once the school designated to receive the transfers is full, the right is worthless.

A sneaky district could designate only full schools as the schools to receive NCLB transfers, thereby negating the right.

TechyMom said...

I remember hearing that some of the students who left Madrona during the garden and art struggle used NCLB to transfer to McGilvra. Since McGilvra usually full, this surprised me.

Does anyone know if this is true?

Or maybe McGilvra fills its K, but has room in the higher grades?

Maureen said...

Ah yes, the legendary "garden and art struggle!" My understanding (based on little more than informed rumors) is that there was 'room' at McGilvra and Montlake since those schools buy down their class sizes. I.e., those schools send fundraising money to the District to buy the right not to fill their classes to the (SEA) contractual maximum. Then, when the "garden and art struggle" combined with Madrona failing AYP, McGilvra and Montlake were not "full" by contractual definition (even though they had been permitted to reject applicants in the on time enrollment process). So the money they had paid the District was wasted that year. Did they get a refund? Are they still buying down their class sizes? I don't know, do any of you?

ferrugiamechanical said...

That is exactly how disabled student's education in Seattle was described by the district's own review.
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