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State WASL achievement gaps narrow, local schools make significant gains

"We are beginning to achieve momentum" said new Mabton School District Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis.

Her comments echo the praise given by the leader of Washington state education, Dr. Terry Bergeson, who on Wednesday proclaimed major increases in the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores given to fourth, seventh and 10th graders.

Bergeson singled out a number of school districts, including Mabton, that have made notable gains in their WASL scores.

"Washington's fourth, seventh and 10th grade students reached higher levels of achievement on the WASL than they ever have before," she said.

Scores in math, reading, writing and science rose in every grade across the state, Bergeson said.

"In addition, outstanding gains were made in many of the districts that were struggling to achieve academic success," she added.

Among those were schools in the Granger, Yakima, Selah, Mount Adams, and Toppenish school districts Bergeson said. Each of these districts made outstanding gains in math and reading on all levels.

"All of these gains can be attributed to the hard work of Washington's wonderful teachers in partnership with support staff, administration, parents community and business leaders and, of course, the students," she said.

Mabton School District is one of five schools in Yakima County to show outstanding improvements in state test scores, agreed Dr. Jane Gutting, Superintendent of Educational Service District (ESD) 105.

"Significant gains have been made at all of our schools in the ESD," Gutting said. "There are many such success stories," she said.

"We're very excited that our district's students' test scores are increasing," Pasiero-Davis said. "Even the students are excited about their achievements." .

Mabton Junior High students showed 21 percent increases in reading, 20 percent in writing and 12 percent gains in math, while Mabton High School students made 21 percent gains in writing and 14 percent gains in math, said Keith Morris, who is principal for both the schools.

Meanwhile in Sunnyside, Washington Elementary School's use of the Reading First program is credited with helping to achieve double digit gains in that building's reading scores, said Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole.

"Washington Elementary students showed a 27.6 percent increase in reading, as well as a 17 percent increase in writing and a whooping 44 percent gain in math," he said.

Cole said Sunnyside schools all made gains in WASL reading achievements. "We very proud of all of our schools for the significant gains being made," said Cole.

"Washington did an outstanding job of boosting its achievement scores," said Cole.

Sunnyside's results from the 2003-04 WASL were its best over the past five years, Cole explained.

"Our fourth grade WASL reading scores have shown an upward trend and steady growth for the past eight years," he said.

In addition, four of the six Sunnyside district schools also made significant gains in math, ranging from 0.6 percent to 44.2 percent.

"Five of our schools also made upward of 16.6 percent gains in writing," he added

Cole said Pioneer Elementary School had its highest gains ever with a 20.2 percent gain in reading and a 12.1 percent gain in math scores. Outlook Elementary School made a 3.9 percent gain in reading.

In addition, Harrison Middle School seventh graders showed a 4.9 percent gain in reading scores while Sunnyside High School 10th graders showed a 5.9 percent gain. PRIDE High School students turned in a 4.4 percent gain in WASL reading scores.

Math scores also showed gains at the elementary schools and at the middle school.

Credit for many of the gains made by the districts is the result of the implementation of research-based curriculum changes. For example, in Mabton, improvements were made by adopting school-wide improvement programs and a dramatic change in teaching practices, explained school officials.

"We have hit upon the formula for success," Pasiero-Davis said.

"We are seeing steady gains year after year and that is the most powerful way to achieve momentum," she said.

Morris credits the gains to the willingness of the Mabton education staff to share teaching practices and to adopt change as needed. He also credits the students with taking a more active role in their education.

"We are focused on quality instruction in every classroom with high expectations for all students," Morris said.

Morris' comments were echoed by Cole, who said Sunnyside teachers' efforts are similarly based on research-based curriculum changes. "

"The good news is we are seeing benchmark growth from fall to spring," Cole said.

""It's clear that our decade-long efforts to improve Washington schools are working," agreed Bergeson.

"We know now how to improve students' reading comprehension, writing and mathematics skills. The primary challenge now is to commit the resources to spread these strategies across the state so that every school and district can benefit from them," Bergeson said.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com

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