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WASL TESTS UNKIND TO MONROE SCHOOLS
September 10, 2008
(MONROE, WA) -- It is not good news this year for Monroe schools when it comes to the infamous WASL tests. That is the test Washington schools use to comply with the federal “No Child Left Behind” act, which was designed to measure school achievement and hold schools accountable.
This year Washington State raised the percentage of “cells” to be considered passing from 60 to 74 percent. However the Monroe School District only produced a 67 percent passing rate this year and many other state districts also fell into the failing zone after the bar was raised to 74 percent. Monroe is now one of 30 school districts in Washington that are listed as needing improvement.
Under the federal system that measures student achievement, schools must pass a progress benchmark called “Adequate Yearly Progress” or AYP for short.
To meet this benchmark students in schools are broken down into categories called “cells” for the purpose of monitoring. There are a number of cells that represent such things as race, English language learners, special needs, and income levels and a student may qualify for more than one cell.
Whether a cell is performing up to standards depends on whether average scores in that cell meet the standard set by the government. The cell is considered failing if it does not meet that standard. And should any school have any single cell fail, the entire school is then rated as failing for the year.
And if a failing school receives Title One federal money based on the schools’ low-income students, then the federal government may assess mandates on the district in question. These mandates typically restrict how federal money can be spent within the district and also requires the district to provide additional services to students at failing schools.
Many educators dislike the way the entire system is set up claiming it is too complex, unpredictable, leaves districts with little control over the process and does not take into effect gains in education within schools and school districts districts that are not reflected in he WASL scores.
Many teachers also consider it unfair to some students that all children in the state take the same test regardless of individual physical and mental capabilities or mastery of the English language.
Of the four schools in the Monroe School District considered failing for 2008, two of them are Title One schools, Park Place Middle School and Frank Wagner Elementary School.
The district sent out a letter to parents in these schools explaining what options are available to them. The two other schools are Monroe High School and Fryelands Elementary. This is the first year Fryelands has been labeled a failing school under the federal system of student performance.
A school can be considered as “failing” even if just one set of students do not have scores that average above the federal guideline. At Fryelands Elementary, low-income students in math failed to meet the federal standard.