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Sunnyside School District has plenty to cheer about

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This is a chart of how each grade level fared in the WASL on a state-wide level. The results are from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's website.

D Day arrived yesterday for educators across the state as the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released the scores of the latest Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).

The scores come from the series of WASL tests students in the fourth, seventh and 10th grade took last spring. Also included in the results are the scores from the fifth, eighth and 10th grade science examines.

Two schools in particular in the Sunnyside School District have plenty to be excited about. Outlook Elementary School made extraordinary progress in raising its WASL scores while Harrison Middle School is one year away from being removed from the school improvement program. That program is set up for schools that are struggling with making the necessary academic gains.

As a whole, there were only three areas where the Sunnyside School District saw declines in WASL scores. Two of those three areas were from the non-mandated science test and the other came from the fourth grade math results.

"My expectation of our schools is that they make continuous improvement," said Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole.

Fourth grade math scores declined slightly district wide from the 50.6 percent of all students who passed this portion of the WASL in 2004 to 46.2 percent this past year. Science scores in the 10th grade also dipped slightly from 12.8 percent passing in 2004 to 11.6 percent this past year. Eighth grade science scores also fell from 14.2 percent who met the WASL requirements in 2004 to 11.2 percent who passed the test last school year.

However, fifth grade science scores increased, rising from 7.1 percent in 2004 to 8.4 percent this past school year.

Fourth grade students saw dramatic increases in their reading and writing scores. The number of fourth grade students who passed the writing portion of the WASL increased from 31.6 percent in 2004 to 43.7 percent this past year. Reading scores from 2004 rose from 54 percent passing to 67.9 percent making the grade this past school year.

Seventh grade reading scores also saw a dramatic improvement district wide, increasing last school year to 43.9 percent of students passing from the 27.8 percent the previous year. Seventh graders also made adequate progress in the math scores, increasing from 16.6 percent passing in 2004 to 27.6 percent this past school year. Seventh graders also increased their WASL scores in writing from 29.3 percent in 2004 to 32 percent making the grade this past year.

High school sophomores also saw adequate progress in all areas except science. Sophomores raised their reading scores by nearly 9 percent with 50.6 percent passing last school year. Math scores also increased by 3.1 percent with 21.2 percent of all sophomores passing this portion of the WASL last year. Writing scores also made nominal increases for sophomores, jumping from 32.5 percent passing in 2004 to 33.3 percent last school year.

Outlook Elementary School

Outlook Elementary School is one of the focus assistance schools the state has designated. The designation has had some success for students, as the WASL scores from last year were frankly astounding.

Outlook saw a 31.4 percent increase in the reading scores for 2005, as 70.5 percent of fourth grade students passed this portion of the WASL.

Math scores at Outlook also increased 15.6 percent from the previous year, rising to 51.9 percent passing in 2005. Writing scores saw a 24.5 percent increase in students passing from 2004. A total of 45.7 percent of all fourth grades taking the writing portion of the WASL passed the test.

"I give all the credit to the staff," said Outlook Principal Cathy Mears. "They just worked their socks off. We are real pleased. "

Mears said the improvements can be attributed to a lot of things. The staff was able to work together at Outlook after spending a year in separate buildings following an expansion project at the schools. She also credited the work the district did on improving reading scores with the Reading First program. Mears added parents have been crucial in the success with the WASL at the school.

While some may see being a focus assistance school as something negative, Mears sees the contrary. She said being a focus assistance school has helped bring the staff together. She said it has forced the school to look at what it is doing.

"We started organizing ourselves," said Mears. "It also calls for real dedication. You start seeing what is going right."

Harrison Middle School

Harrison Middle School has just one more year of making 100 percent adequate yearly progress and it will no longer be in the state's school improvement program.

Harrison saw a 16.1 percent increase in reading scores with 43.9 percent of students passing this past school year. Math scores for seventh graders increased by 11 percent to 27.6 percent passing, while writing scores saw a 3.3 percent increase, to 32 percent passing.

Sunnyside High School

The high school saw minimal increases, but Principal Brian Hart is pleased with the growth that has been made.

Reading was the biggest area of improvement at the school with 53.3 percent of the sophomores passing. This is nearly an 8 percent increase from the last test year in 2004.

"We showed tremendous growth in reading," said Hart.

Reading scores at the high school have increased by 14 percent over the past two years.

Hart credits a lot of the work to the staff and in particular literacy coach Heidi Hellner-Gomez.

Math scores also increased at the high school by 2.5 percent with 22.8 percent passing this past year. Writing scores at the high school stayed the same as the previous year, with 36.1 percent of the sophomores passing.

"We have had less emphasis on writing," said Hart.

Math is going to be a big focus in the district, said Hart. The high school is working with a math coach and will be bringing in an outside math expert to help develop learning strategies, said Hart.

Washington

Elementary School

Test results were a bit mixed for Washington Elementary School, which showed a significant gain in reading scores for fourth graders. Reading scores rose 9.3 percent to 69.4 percent of the students passing this past school year.

"We have done a lot of work here at Washington," said Washington Assistant Principal Rob Chambers.

Math scores at Washington fell sharply from the 2003-04 school year when 64.9 percent of students passed. Only 45.3 percent passed this last year in math. Writing scores fell slightly at Washington from 43.2 percent passing in 2004 to 42.5 percent passing this past year.

Chambers said the test scores, especially for math, can be a bit deceiving because it is a new group of students being tested. Chambers said the math emphasis the district is making this year should help increase those test scores in the coming years. In October, the district is dedicating one of its learning improvement days to teaching math skills.

"That will make a huge improvement," said Chambers.

Pioneer Elementary School

Pioneer saw increases in all areas except math.

Reading scores at Pioneer rose from 58.8 percent in 2004 to 64.4 percent of all students passing this past year. Writing scores also increased dramatically from 28.2 percent in 2004 to 43.1 percent last school year.

Math scores declined by 5.1 percent from the 2003-04 school year with only 42.5 percent of fourth graders at Pioneer passing in 2005.

PRIDE High School

The biggest area of growth at PRIDE was in the area of reading, which rose 10.4 percent from 2004. A total of 20.7 percent of the sophomores at PRIDE passed the WASL reading section.

Writing scores at PRIDE also saw a small increase from 2.6 percent in 2004 to 3.4 percent this past year.

In math, 3.4 percent of the 10th grade students passed. No data was available on math scores from the 2004 school year.

Cole was pleased with the WASL results in all the buildings in the district. He particularly cited the success of Harrison Middle School, which he said has worked very hard in improving test scores.

"Harrison has done a tremendous job," said Cole.

Cole also felt that with Outlook becoming a focus assistance school it helped the staff out quite a bit. He said part of the process of school improvement is forming teams at each building to address learning issues and that has helped Outlook.

Cole said the gains in the reading scores show that the reading emphasis program the district has in place is working.

Cole said with the hiring of math coaches in the district he expects the math scores to increase the same way reading scores did after the hiring of reading coaches.

While he would like to see science scores higher, Cole isn't too worried that the scores won't increase as the science portion of the WASL becomes a requirement. Cole said the district is working on putting together science kits and other curriculum to improve those scores.

"I am not disappointed with any of the schools," said Cole. "The teachers are doing an outstanding job."

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