Local schools show gains on state tests

Students fare well on end-of-course, proficiency exams

Students fare well on end-of-course, proficiency exams

Students in Camas and Washougal have posted gains on several state tests recently released as part of an overall Washington State Report Card.

The 2012-13 results include the Measurements of Student Progress, the state’s exam for third- through eighth-graders. Students are tested in reading and math, with fourth- and seventh-graders also taking tests in writing, and fifth- and eight-graders taking tests in science. Tenth-graders take a proficiency exam to assess overall knowledge in reading and writing, as well as end-of-course exams in biology, algebra and geometry. The end-of-course exams are also offered to students in lower grades who are taking those classes.

Washougal posted impressive gains in math, with 78 percent of students passing the algebra exam, and 92 percent passing the geometry exam, compared with 64 and 66 percent the year before. The biology exam increased from 72 to 80 percent of students passing.

In addition, students improved in math at all grade levels. Reading scores improved at all levels except seventh-grade, which decreased by 10 percent. In addition, writing scores increased at the fourth- and seventh-grade levels.

When asked how she felt about the results, Superintendent Dawn Tarzian replied, “Ecstatic.”

“Early in August when we began looking at our preliminary data, we asked our administrators to identify ‘celebrations’ from their buildings based upon the data they were provided,” Tarzian said. “There were so many of these celebrations. Principals could directly link these gains back to their leadership work and the efforts of their staff to implement school improvement plans.”

Although there were improvements in several areas, Washougal still lags behind the state average at the sixth-grade level, with 69 percent passing the reading tests and 50 percent passing math, as compared with 71 percent in reading and 59 percent in math at the state level.

“Sixth-grade is a pivotal transition year for students, not just socially and emotionally, but also academically,” Tarzian said. “Standards tend to move from being concrete to more abstract, students transition to more classes and are also responsible for more content area work.”

She added that the district was addressing the gap by offering a program targeted at incoming sixth-graders this past summer.

“We worked on behavioral and academic skills during the program and it served as a great introduction to the middle school campus,” Tarzian said. “Our newly hired principal and his dean of students have also reached out via phone to all the sixth-grade parents, to introduce themselves and to open communication lines.”

Tarzian credits the overall gains in math to teacher collaboration and having a mathematics leadership team.

“This team has worked to align curriculum outcomes within buildings and across the district,” she said. “They have also been able to take professional development back to their respective buildings.

“I am extremely excited that we are going to be hiring two kindergarten through fifth-grade math coaches to provide (more) professional development and to help us institutionalize the gains that we have made.”

At the high school level, new math curriculum has been adopted.

“Teachers have reported that these programs have helped to increase the rigor of the mathematics being taught,” Tarzian said. “One teacher shared with me that a student in her geometry class reported that she had learned more in geometry than in all her other classes combined.”

In Camas, students continue to post results well above the state average in all areas.

“It’s a credit to the students, the support they receive at home, and the hard working teachers and support staff in the classrooms,” said Jeff Snell, deputy superintendent.

Highlights include 91 percent of students passing the end-of-course algebra exam, and 96 percent passing the geometry exam, compared with 80 and 89 percent statewide. Other notable areas are nearly 93 percent passing the biology exam, compared to 82 percent statewide. In 2011-12, almost 73 percent of Camas students passed the biology exam.

“Teachers collaborated to work through the biology course improving, aligning, assessing, and preparing students,” Snell said. “The Biology EOC became mandatory for graduation for last year’s 10th graders. Typically we’ve seen increases in student performance when assessments become a graduation requirement.”

Overall, science is a strong area for the Camas School District, with all scores well above state averages.

“Science has been a big focus for the district from elementary to high school,” Snell said. “Students have opportunities to explore science beyond the classroom with programs like the Science Olympiad, Robotics, and the Magnet program. Our local Camas Education Foundation has also supported science through grants at all levels to help engage our students and teachers in science.”

For more information about the state test results, visit www.reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us and click on the school district of interest under the “summary” tab.