State education officials on Thursday, Sept. 27, released their first report for a new way in looking at how Washington public schools are doing at teaching kids reading and math. Results were mixed for Whatcom County schools.
The new school accountability system is designed to help local officials focus on closing the achievement gaps between kids of different ethnic and economic groups. It is Washington's answer to the federal education law known as "No Child Left Behind." Washington has been granted a waiver to take a different approach to identifying and helping failing schools.
The old system labeled a school or a district as failing if they did not meet dozens of testing, attendance and graduation rate goals several years in a row. The national goal was to have every kid meet state academic standards in reading and math by 2014.
The new system sets goals for closing the achievement gap between kids from different groups, with a longer deadline of cutting that gap in half by the 2017-18 school year.
Now, schools are measured against new "Annual Measurable Objectives" - basically, a target score that schools have to hit on reading and math assessments. The first report tells whether schools are on target or below the target score.
Here's a quick look at how Whatcom County school districts fared. Information on individual schools is available online. The Bellingham Herald will publish more extensive reports on the new system in coming weeks.
Bellingham: Below the target on reading, on target for math.
Blaine: Below the targets on reading and math.
Ferndale: Below the targets on reading and math.
Lynden: On target for reading, below the target for math.
Meridian: On target for reading and math.
Mount Baker: Below the targets on reading and math.
Nooksack Valley: On target for reading and math.
The new system gives parents and concerned community members several things: More transparency, more dollars to help kids in the groups that need attention, and new rules requiring districts to take a harder look at what they can do to turn the numbers around.
"This is much more of a public, transparent posting of results," said Alan Burke, deputy superintendent of K-12 education for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The main improvement, in terms of transparency, is the lowering of a number that kept some testing results away from public scrutiny.
Schools used to need 30 kids in any one ethnic group, or in their special education or English learners category, before those kids' test results were posted. Now, the results from each group with at least 20 kids are available for public scrutiny.
The results from a lot more subgroups are now online. In the past, for example, Bellingham parents wouldn't know that Kulshan Middle School's 25 black students were doing better than expected in reading and weren't reaching the goal in math.
Parents will be able to compare their neighborhood school with the school down the road, and decide if they want to try to move their child to a school that is doing a better job of helping kids like theirs.
Districts are required to send parents a letter if their schools are on one of two statewide lists:
Focus schools are 92 schools that make up the lowest 10 percent of Washington's Title 1 schools, which are low-income schools getting extra financial help from the federal government. Focus schools have the consistently lowest performing subgroups on statewide assessments in reading and math over three years.
Among Whatcom County schools, Lynden Middle School was on the list of "focus" schools.
Priority schools are the 46 schools that make up the lowest 5 percent of Title 1 schools in the state, based on statewide test results. They have shown a lack of progress on the tests over three years.
The state also posted a list of "reward schools," which are the 58 Title 1 schools that either show the most progress or have top student achievement on statewide tests. Among Whatcom County schools, Sunnyland Elementary in Bellingham and Sumas Elementary were "reward" schools.
This story was corrected Sept. 28.
LOCAL TEST SCORES
Information about Annual Measurable Objective results for Whatcom County schools, along with lots of other information about public schools, is available at this Washington State Report Card webpage. The Bellingham Herald will publish local analysis and reactions in upcoming editions.
Click on the links below for information on specific Whatcom County school districts. A dropdown menu on each page lists individual schools in each district: