More fifth and eighth graders in Washington state are passing standardized science tests compared to a year ago.
That's according to figures released last week from the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction's office.
More than 66 percent of fifth graders in this state passed the standardized science test in 2012, compared to 55.7 percent in 2011. Though not as great as that 10 percent jump, eighth graders also showed progress with 66.3 percent passing the science portion of the test, compared to 61.6 percent a year ago.
"Students are continuing to make progress," said Randy Dorn, Washington's Superintendent of Public Instruction. "Science and math scores are up in almost every grade. Those trends are due to the great work that our science and math teachers do every day, and the fact that we have new standards that are clear and address what students need now and in the future."
Dorn's comments were made last week with the release of scores from the 2012 tests administered statewide for the Measurements of Student Progress, High School Proficiency Exams and high school end-of-course exams.
That growth was mirrored in local school districts here in the Lower Valley.
Fifth graders in the Sunnyside School District saw their science scores jump, with 38 percent passing in 2012, compared to 25 percent in 2011. There was a slight uptick for eighth graders, with 25.5 percent passing the science portion of the test compared to 22.3 percent in 2011.
Other gains in Sunnyside schools included 10th grade writing scores, up from 63.8 passing to 73.2 percent.
Sunnyside third graders saw 47.8 percent pass the math testing in 2012, compared to 43 percent in 2011.
There were some declines, though, as 52.3 percent of Sunnyside fourth graders passed the writing exam, compared to 60 percent in 2011.
Some segments saw mixed results.
For example, 55.6 percent of Sunnyside high school students taking the end of course math exam for year two (geometry) passed in 2011, while only 46.8 percent passed in 2012. On the other hand, End of Course math exams for year one (algebra 1) improved, from 49.9 percent passing in 2011 to 64 percent passing in 2012.
That give and take was also seen in reading scores. Fourth, fifth and eighth graders in Sunnyside saw improvement from 2011 to 2012, while third, sixth, seventh and 10th graders saw declines over the same time period.
In math results, all but fourth and fifth graders showed more Sunnyside students passing in 2012 than in 2011.
Brian Hart is the district's executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, and he noted the good news also includes a graduation rate that jumped from 71.6 percent in 2011 to a rate that's expected to be 77 to 80 percent for the class of 2012.
"Overall, we are pleased and encouraged by our gains," says Hart, who noted an improvement of nearly 6 percent in fifth grade reading, 17.6 percent for seventh grade reading and 8.9 percent for 10th grade writing.
Even with that success, though, Hart says the district is pushing to work toward improvement and "...will continue to focus efforts on raising achievement in areas where we are not showing growth."
Grandview schools, too, saw improvements in standardized science test scores. There were 28.8 percent of Grandview fifth graders who passed the state's science exam in 2012, compared to 20.5 percent last year.
In addition, there was a smaller uptick for eighth graders with 35.1 percent passing the science test in 2012, up from 32.1 percent in 2011.
By far the big news for Grandview were math scores reflecting improvement at all grade levels.
Most notably, 57.1 percent of seventh graders in Grandview passed the math test in 2012, more than double 2011's pace of 24.4 percent.
While Grandview's other grades saw math increases of 3 to 7 percent, there was also double-digit growth with eighth grade math test results, up 42.3 percent in 2012 compared to 30.3 percent in 2011.
"Students and teachers across the district are working to improve students' academic success," says Kevin Chase, superintendent Grandview schools. "Our scores improved in every grade level tested in mathematics for the second year in a row and our reading scores showed real improvement in many grades."
The only areas of decline in Grandview schools was reflected in third grade reading, with 57.8 percent passing the state test in 2011 and 53.5 percent passing this year. There was also a slight downturn in eighth grade reading (down from 61.4 to 59.7 percent) and 10th grade reading (down from 71.7 to 70.1 percent).
As with Grandview, students in the Mabton School District showed moderate progress in science test scores (fifth graders up from 51.1 to 52.6 percent and eighth grades up from 20.3 to 27 percent) but a quantum leap in math.
Most dramatic was the end of course math 1 exam. In 2011 only 33.3 percent of Mabton high school students passed that algebra 1 test, but this year that figure nearly doubled to 62.4 percent.
Mabton also experienced at or nearly double-digit growth in fifth grade math (up from 34.2 in 2011 to 43.2 percent) and sixth grade math (from 35.3 to 45.6 percent).
The primary downturn for Mabton schools was in writing, with fourth and 10th graders showing double-digit drops. A total of 34.2 percent of Mabton fourth graders passed the writing portion in 2011, compared to 22.1 percent this year.
Among 10th graders in the Mabton School District, 74.6 percent passed the writing test last year, with 64.7 percent passing in 2012.
Minerva Morales is Mabton's school superintendent, and she pointed out her district's third grade scores are exceeding the state average.
"Much focus has been put on state standards and common core alignment in math and reading," says Morales. "The focus of our work will continue ever more rigorously to support students for further success, in particular to help our students be successful in meeting new state requirements for passing end of course math exams for graduation."
In releasing the latest test results, the state of Washington also issued a report card on each school district at reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us.