High school math: Area for improvement

Published on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 by Jeremy Schwartz

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For the last three years, Blaine high school has not met federal standards in math instruction established by the No Child Left Behind Act. This result comes as the school district as a whole reacts to the recently released test scores for the new state assessments administered last spring. 

Interim curriculum instruction assessment director Kathy Newport presented the report to the Blaine school district board of commissioners at their regular meeting Monday night. She said the results of the state assessment tests and the preliminary adequate yearly progress (AYP) reports for Blaine’s three schools present both reasons to celebrate and reexamine the challenges the district will face next year.

AYP is the primary federal measure of year-to-year student achievement. Each year, school districts must meet the AYP student proficiency goals in reading and math. Under the AYP rules, each state must raise the requirements in gradual steps each year so all students in a given district will achieve proficiency in each subject area by the 2013-2014 school year.

Newport said Blaine high school did not meet AYP goals in math this year and will move to the second step in the AYP improvement scale. The scale has five steps, with step five signifying the most improvement needed, and determines what consequences a school must face if AYP goals are not met.

According to a summary of AYP rules provided by the Blaine school district, schools entering step two have not met AYP goals for three years. The consequences include notifying parents the school has been identified for improvement and offering tutoring services for low-achieving students.

Newport, however, said Blaine middle school has now met AYP standards for two consecutive years and will not move into step three. If a school meets AYP goals for two consecutive years, it exits the school improvement process mandated by law completely.

A school entering step three of the AYP improvement scale has not met AYP goals for four years and must take more drastic steps, such as replacing certain school staff and extending the year or day.

Newport said Blaine’s situation does not seem to be uncommon among school districts in Whatcom County. A few school districts in the county have moved to step five of the improvement scale, which means the schools have not met AYP goals for six years. Schools in this situation are advised to replace the majority of their staff and possibly contract with an outside education provider to run the school.

In addition to the AYP report, Newport presented the district’s results for the newly implemented High School Proficiency Exam and the Measure of Student Performance, which assesses grades three through eight. The two new exams replaced the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) last year.

Compared to state average scores, the Blaine school district scored higher across the board in reading assessments. Compared to last year’s WASL scores, reading scores declined in grades three, five, six, eight and 10 while they improved in grades four and seven.

Blaine’s elementary math school scores were lower than the state average, with third grade being about 15 percentage points lower than the state scores, and Blaine’s middle and high school scores were all above the state average.
Compared to last year’s scores, math scores declined in grades three, four, five, eight and 10 while improving in grades six and seven.