Sunnyside High School sophomores are not alone in dealing with declining test scores, as their counterparts in Mabton and Grandview also showed signs of struggling.
In spring of this year, sophomores around the state took a mandated test called the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). Previously, the WASL exam was taken by students throughout the state.
In almost every area tested, the percentage of sophomores in Mabton and Grandview passing the HSPE dropped compared to those passing the WASL in the spring of 2009.
In Mabton, for example, there were single digit losses across the board for sophomores except in science, where 14.7 percent of them passed the HSPE this year compared to just 3.2 passing the WASL science exam in 2009.
Grandview sophomores seemed especially hard hit by the new HSPE, as they had double digit losses in every area except science.
As an example, reading scores fell by a third (from 78.8 percent passing in 2009 to 56.5 percent) and math scores by almost half (from 24.4 to 13.2 percent).
Grades three through eight around the state were tested this past spring via the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), a standardized exam administered this past spring instead of the WASL.
For Grandview students in those grade levels, there were primarily single digit losses.
The exceptions were fifth grade reading (down from 53.6 to 42.4 percent) and sixth grade reading (down from 51.3 to 36.5 percent).
There was also an area of notable gain, as fourth grade math scores in Grandview increased from 19.5 percent passing to 23.5 percent.
"You have some ups and downs," Grandview School Superintendent Kevin Chase said of the scores. He said school districts may still be playing catch-up with new math standards tested this year, especially at the high school level.
Chase said a positive aspect of the new testing format is the ability to administer it on-line. He noted that all middle school students took the MSP on-line earlier this year.
Chase says the trend will probably continue to expand in the future with all state-mandated testing eventually being administered on-line.
Another positive, he added, is that math scores did increase among some younger students, as in Sunnyside where all elementary and middle school students made progress this year.
"It shows that districts in our area can make gains in math and that's encouraging," Chase said.
Mabton students taking the MSP had contrasting results in the math section. Fourth, sixth and eighth graders made gains. Fourth graders, in particular, made the biggest jump with 34.3 percent passing the MSP this year compared to 24.3 percent on the 2009 WASL.
On the other hand, third and fifth graders in Mabton saw significant drops in math. The numbers show a decline from 68.1 percent passing in 2009 to 50.7 percent for the third graders, and fifth graders dropping from 42.3 percent passing last year to only 25 percent this past spring.
The state testing results for Bickleton showed that 45.5 percent of fifth graders passed the reading and math portions of the MSP. A total of 36.4 percent passed the science portion.
Grandview, Mabton and the Bickleton school districts all showed strong graduation rates, with Bickleton over 90 percent and Mabton and Grandview each over 70 percent.
The data released this week also showed the Grandview and Mabton school districts failed to make adequately yearly progress.