Whatcom County students top state averages in standardized school tests


Bellingham School District beat state averages in every subject and grade, according to the 2013 results for standardized tests in reading, writing, math and science.

Students in Lynden and Nooksack Valley school districts also fared well, doing better in state averages in nearly all subjects, as shown by scores from the Measurements of Student Progress, High School Proficiency Exam and "end of course" exams that were released Monday, Aug. 26.

Students in grades 3 through 8 take the reading and math MSP, with select grades taking the writing and science tests.

High school students, generally in 10th grade, take the HSPE in reading and writing, and end-of-course tests in algebra, geometry and biology.

Results released Monday were for tests given last school year.

Individual student results will be out to parents by mid- to late-September.

To graduate, high school students in the classes of 2013 and 2014 must pass at least one of the math end-of-course tests, along with the reading and writing HSPE exams. Biology also is required for 2015 and 2016.

In Whatcom County, end-of-course scores for high school students in math and biology all were strong, especially for geometry.

The standardized tests help schools make sure that student learning is on track. But school officials said they're not the entire story.

"It's great to have that data. It's great to have that standard to go for, but it's only one measure," said Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn.

Below is a brief look at how each district fared on the tests.


Once, again Bellingham had a higher percentage of students passing in every grade and every subject across the district than the state averages, with biology and math end-of-course exams significantly higher, in the mid-80s to mid-90s.

Compared to its scores in the 2010-11 school year, the district had more students passing writing in all but one grade and reading in all but two grades. Math results were mixed in grades 3 through 8.

District officials are studying the math curriculum this year, because most of its schools need to improve in that area.

"We're lower in math than we are in literacy. That's across the board from elementary through high school," said Mike Copland, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for Bellingham School District.

At Alderwood Elementary, third-grade reading and math scores dropped, but fourth-grade writing skyrocketed by nearly 33 percentage points over last year.

Third-graders at Carl Cozier, Columbia, Cordata, Northern Heights and Roosevelt all scored better in math and reading this year, with Carl Cozier students scores climbing quite a bit higher.

A majority of fifth-graders at Parkview and Wade King passed science - more than 90 percent to over 93 percent, respectively. Larrabee and Lowell science scores also were up.

Happy Valley's fourth-graders made double-digit strides in reading and math, although third-grade reading was down sharply over last year.

Fourth-graders at Silver Beach did better in reading, math and writing, while results for Sunnyland students dropped in all but third-grade reading and fourth-grade writing, while reading jumped at Geneva in grades 3, 4 and 5.

Lowell students improved in every category but third-grade math.

At Fairhaven Middle School, scores dropped except for math in seventh and eighth grade as well as eighth-grade science.

At Kulshan, scores were down nearly across the board, while Whatcom had mixed results in reading and math.

At Shuksan, scores increased except for seventh-grade reading and math.

Bellingham and Sehome high schools improved in math and reading, with a drop in writing at Bellingham.

Squalicum saw gains in nearly all categories, except for reading. The percent of students passing geometry continued to climb, reaching 95 percent.

Options High School students also made gains in math and biology, with double-digit jumps in biology to 86.2 percent.


Districtwide, fewer students passed reading and math in fourth, fifth and sixth grade this year. There also were decreases in fifth-grade science but increases in seventh- and 10th-grade writing.

In a turnaround from last year, Blaine Elementary School had an increase in the number of third-graders passing reading and math. Reading and math scores were down in fourth and fifth grades.

Superintendent Ron Spanjer was concerned about math exam results at the elementary grade level, adding that the data for two years running were not where the district wanted to be.

"That's an area we're immediately diving into," he said.

The middle school experienced drops from last year in all but seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade science, although some of the school's reading and math scores were above the state average.

High school scores were all up, with more students passing reading and writing.

Students also far surpassed state averages for end-of course math and biology exams - with percentages in the mid-80s to mid-90s.


Ferndale School District lost ground in math, with fewer students passing districtwide in all but seventh and eighth grade.

But, there were large strides in students passing algebra, geometry and biology, with the latter jumping by 31.7 points.

"We're pleased with the gains," Quinn said.

At Cascadia, the percentage of third-graders passing reading and math were up from last year. Fifth-graders lost ground in reading and math, but sixth graders gained in both subjects.

At Central, reading was up in all grades except for fourth, and down in all grades for math. Writing was up, while science was down from last year.

Results were mixed for reading and math at Eagleridge, but up overall at Custer Elementary.

Mountain View saw dips in reading, except for a double-digit jump in third grade to 85.7 percent of students passing. Math was down in every grade, except for fifth where it was essentially flat.

Skyline saw gains in fourth grade in reading, writing and math, but declines elsewhere.

At Horizon Middle School, more eighth-graders passed reading, writing and science. Vista Middle School dropped in every subject except seventh-grade math.

The percent of students who passed end-of-course algebra exams at both schools hit 91 to 98 percent.

Ferndale High continued to improve its math scores, with more students passing algebra and geometry this year by at least 12.8 points.

Biology also jumped by 30.4 points to hit more than 84 percent of students passing.

At Windward High school, students made big strides in reading, writing, biology and math.

Lummi high school and tribal elementary remained far below state averages, but had increases in fourth-grade reading and math, eighth-grade reading, and in geometry.

For geometry, the number of Lummi High students who passed was up 24.9 points, to 46.1 percent.


The district's students continued their trend of outscoring the state in nearly all subjects and all grades, save for eight-grade math and high school algebra, which was barely below the state mark.

Meanwhile, scores for geometry increased by double digits to 94.4 percent, while biology jumped 25 points to 88.2 percent.

Superintendent Jim Frey said results were "encouraging," but noted that more work needed to be done.

"We're not where we want to be on a number of things, but we're making progress and feel like what we're doing is paying off," he said.

Frey wanted students to do better on math, where scores were lower than those for reading.

Fourth-graders at Fisher Elementary made huge gains in reading, math and writing. Isom also saw notable increases among its fourth-graders in reading and math.

At Bernice Vossbeck, fourth-graders improved across the board. All three schools exceeded state averages in nearly all grades and subjects.

Students at Lynden Middle School improved in nearly every grade and every subject compared to last year, save a drop in students passing the algebra exam.

Still, reading scores increased by 1.5 to 9.2 points into the low 70s to high 80s. Math jumped nearly 12 points for seventh-graders, and writing pass rates for the same grade increased to nearly 90 percent.

"If something jumps out at us, the middle school performance areas are very strong," Frey said.

At Lynden High, the total of students passing reading and writing edged up, with 92.2 percent of 10th-graders passing the writing exam. More students passed the math exams this year than last, with those passing geometry up by 14 points to 94.5 percent.


The district continued to improve over last year in math for most grades, with the exception of third and seventh. Scores also increased in reading in nearly all grades. Writing jumped by 28.6 points in seventh grade to 83 percent of students passing the exam.

More third-graders from Irene Reither Primary passed reading and fewer passed the math exam, with math down 10.4 points.

At Ten Mile Elementary, the news was good in math, with more students passing in fourth- and fifth-grade this year, including a big bump of 16.8 points in fourth grade.

At Meridian Middle School, scores were down for seventh-grade reading and math but up for writing, increasing 29.4 points from last year to have 83.8 percent of students passing. Reading and math were up in sixth and eighth grade.

Meridian High gained in reading but lost ground in writing. The number of students passing geometry jumped 14 points to 95.8 percent.


Reading improved districtwide in all grades but seventh and eighth, and in math in all grades but sixth and eighth. There were decreases in the number of students passing fourth- and seventh-grade writing, as well as science.

At Acme Elementary, the biggest gains were in fourth-grade writing - the percentage of students passing increased by 18.8 points to 71.4 percent. But fifth-grade math dropped off by 26.4 points to 21.1 percent.

More students passed reading in most of the grades at Harmony and Kendall, with sixth-grade reading at Kendall skyrocketing by 31 points to 81 percent of students passing.

Science scores were up for Kendall's fifth-graders, and down for Harmony's.

At Mount Baker Junior High, scores were down in all subjects in both grades except for seventh-grade math.

The high school had a higher percentage of students passing in all subjects except writing. Students had higher scores than state averages in math and biology end-of-course exams, with geometry at 94.3 percent.

Superintendent Charles Burleigh noted the more than 24-point increase in the number of students who passed the biology exam - increasing the rate to 86.5 percent.

"That's a big jump," he said. "It points at great work done by our students and great work done by our teachers."


Nooksack Valley School District had more students exceeding the state average in most subjects, except for fourth- and eighth-grade math as well as eighth-grade science.

Everson Elementary had a big dip in fourth-grade reading, but large increases in third- and fifth-grade reading of 27.5 and 21.7 points, respectively, over last year.

Math scores were down in fourth- and fifth-grade, but science and writing scores were up.

At Nooksack Elementary, more students passed reading in third- and fourth-grades and were just a little under last year's results in fifth-grade; this year 93 to 98 percent of students passed the test.

At Sumas Elementary, the number of fifth-graders passing science jumped by double digits to more than 89 percent.

At Nooksack Valley Middle School, more students passed seventh-grade writing, with rates hitting 95.2 percent this year. Math, reading and science results were mixed.

Reading and writing were down at Nooksack Valley High, but more students passed the math and biology exams, with nearly 98 percent of students passing the geometry test.

SEE THE RESULTS / To see the results for Measurements of Student Progress, High School Proficiency Exams and end-of-course tests for districts and schools, go online to k12.wa.us and click on the "State Report Card" icon on the right side of the page. From there, you can select districts, individual schools, and results by year in the scroll-down menu.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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