Edmonds School District students post highest ever ACT test scores; low numbers for grade 11 Smarter Balanced Assessment participation

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edmondssdlogoThe Edmonds School District received mostly good news about the results from recent district-wide testing.

At Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting, Assistant Superintendent (Secondary) Patrick Murphy reported that the district’s students recorded their highest ever scores for the ACT, a national college admissions examination. The number of students taking the ACT was the second highest on record. District students also scored higher than the state average in all four subjects – English, mathematics, reading and science.

“The numbers are going up. The scores are going up,” said Murphy, who also noted that for the first time in Washington State more students took the ACT than the SAT.

The district, with the financial assistance of the Foundation for Edmonds School District, offers students the opportunity to take the PSAT and a practice ACT test.

“We like to give our students exposure to both the SAT and ACT in practice formats,” Murphy said.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) also yielded positive results as district students across grades 3-8 scored higher than the state average in English Language Arts. In all grades, except fourth and eighth, district students exceeded the state numbers in math. The fourth and eighth grades were about even with the state averages. The SBA participation rates for grades 3-8 were similar to the state and the 10 comparison districts.

But for grade 11, the district was significantly below both the state and comparison districts in participation. Only 16.4 percent of the district’s students took the English SBA and 18.4 percent took the Math SBA. The state participation rate for English was 53.6 and for comparison districts it was 52.8. The state math rate was 49.6 and comparison districts’ rate was 43.7.

District staff noted that many of the high school juniors had met the standard for high school graduation and chose not to participate in the assessment. School Board President Diana White noted that the timing of the test may have affected participation rates as the SBA was given during the same week as SAT and finals.

“It was the worst time to schedule those tests,” White said.

Both district staff and Board members expect the SBA participation numbers to be low again next year.

A survey indicated that statewide students preferred the online assessment system over paper testing.

In other news:

– Elementary schools hosted Jump Start, a pre-kindergarten for children preparing to enter kindergarten, last week. Executive Director of Student Learning Lara Drew said the district is considering have one consistent week of Jump Start with one start time as opposed to the two weeks of Jump Start this year. Work is continuing on the Edmonds PreK program, a 90-minute class that is a mix of parent education and student involvement. The program is running into space issues at some schools.

– Drew told the Board that two new Science Leads have joined the Student Learning team. Jennifer Hageman is the grades 7-12 Science Lead and Kitten Vaa is the PreK-6 Science Lead. The two leads will be conducting a review of the current science programs and implementation plans.

– Staff has been working on the 1:1 Chromebook implementation for middle schools. Many of the Chromebook have been issued with the remaining students scheduled to receive their computers this week.

One sixth grader, when told he’ll be receiving a computer, said “You just made my year.”

“The kids are excited. The parents are excited,” Drew said.

The roll out is going smoothly, she added.

– Murphy updated the Board on the graduation and state testing numbers for the Class of 2015. He noted that 93.1 percent of the students met all of the state testing requirements. Of the 107 students who did not pass the state testing requirements, more than half were six credits short of graduation. Twenty-one were two or fewer credits short. Murphy said that 198 students met the testing requirements but did not graduate due to a lack of credits.

– The district will be contacting the city councils and mayors of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace to determine their level of interest in bringing back School Resource Officers (SRO) to the high schools. The Lynnwood Police Department recently reached to out the district, raising the SRO issue. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office partners with the district for a SRO at Lynnwood High School, which is located in Bothell. The other three high schools had SROs in the past but they were cut due to budget issues. The district and police departments shared equally in the cost for the SROs.

The Board was supportive of bringing back police officers to the high schools. “It’s great that kids can see them in a positive light,” Board Member April Nowak said.

“Having them in the schools is a tremendous benefit,” Board Member Ann McMurray added.

– Overall enrollment numbers in the district were flat from last year, with a fourth day count FTE of 19,118 students. The actual enrollment in January 2015 was 18,508. The increased numbers, however, are due mostly to the addition of full-day kindergarten in the district.

Two elementary schools showed decreases of more than 50 students – Lynndale (57) and College Place (55). The numbers were released on Tuesday so district staff had not yet had enough time to analyze the reasons for the drop. Alderwood Middle had a decrease of 48 and College Place Middle was down by 47. Brier Terrace Middle had an increase of 60. Lynnwood High increased its enrollment by 97 students.

– District staff has scheduled a first reading of the 2016 Capital Projects Technology Levy, which will be for $58 million, for its Sept. 28 meeting. The state does not provide funding for technology or capital projects. The Board also considered a $55.5 million levy proposal but decided on $58 million because it would speed up the 1:1 Chromebook plan for grades 3-12 by a year. The additional cost for a homeowner with a $300,000 would be about $56 over a four-year period or about $15 per year, less any new construction.

– The district plans to put a parcel of land it owns east of Martha Lake and south of 155th St. SW. on the market and retain land located south of Lynnwood High School.

– The Board approved a resolution that called upon state officials to promptly and fully comply with the Supreme Court orders on the McCleary case. The Board also approved a policy on naming school and facilities and related procedures. The district previously did not have a policy. The Washington State School Directors’ Association, WASSDA, maintains a directory of model policy templates for members.

– The Board approved the use of Capital Partnership Funds to replace play equipment at Spruce Elementary. Spruce Elementary has a large play area with equipment dating to the original construction. The estimated cost of the new equipment is $100,000.

— By David Pan

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