School board discusses graduation pathway test results, legislative position priorities

Director Gary Noble thanks public commenters for their time.

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors at its Tuesday, Oct. 11 meeting received a report regarding the Smarter Balanced and Washington Comprehensive Assessments and also approved its 10 Washington State School Directors’ Association legislative position priorities.

District Director of Assessment Austin Mueller came before the board to discuss the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) and the Washington Comprehensive Assessments of Science (WCAS) from 2019-2022.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment has both English and math components and counts as a pathway for student graduation, whereas the Washington Comprehensive Assessments of Science only focuses on science and does not count toward graduation. 

Both tests are usually administered in the spring of each school year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Edmonds School District did not require the SBA or WCAS in 2020 or spring of 2021. During the fall of 2021, both tests were given to students for their previous grade level. For example, a sixth grader would have been given the fifth-grade SBA.

The test was also shortened considerably in 2021 to encourage student participation. Mueller said going forward, the test will most likely remain shorter to appeal to students and increase test participation.

“What we noticed in these trends is that we had higher participation rates prior to the pandemic,” he said. “During the fall administration [in 2021] we had a significant decline in participation. This was not surprising.”

When the test was administered again in spring 2022, participation rates had already begun to increase but remained lower than pre-pandemic levels. Mueller hopes the shortened test and staff encouragement will coax more students to take the test again.

In fall 2021, Mueller said math scores dropped notably more than English scores, while science scores remained relatively the same. The test results showed 51% of students were on track to meet the graduation requirement for English while only 39% were on track for math. Science scores remained around 41%.

Mueller said teachers get the previous year’s test score for every student at the beginning of the new school year. This helps teachers evaluate in which areas the student needs the most help and plan accordingly.

Staff are using the data collected by these tests, as well as the district’s strategic plan, to improve curriculums and help students grow in all areas of learning. Mueller said he hopes the measurable data provided by these tests will allow staff to help students successfully catch up after two years of online learning, where many fell behind.

In other business, the board approved GR Recruiting as the official search consultant for the district’s new superintendent. Board President Nancy Katims said the directors felt GR Recruiting was the best option of the two consultants interviewed, as the company has worked with the district before and is familiar with the district’s goals and priorities.

The board will provide routine updates on how the search is progressing and hopes to have a chosen candidate by the end of March 2023.

The board also chose its top 10 Washington State School Directors’ Association Legislative Assembly (WSSDA) legislative position priorities Tuesday night. Of the 290 options, Edmonds School District will focus on:

  • Amply funded staffing levels
  • Universal free school meals
  • Support for special education programs
  • Graduation requirements and pathways
  • Funding safe, healthy, contemporary school buildings
  • Multilingual learners
  • Passage of school finance issues
  • Support for school-based health centers
  • Expansion of work-based learning opportunities
  • Levy authority and local effort assistance

During board member comments, Director Gary Noble thanked the audience for attending the meetings and said the board is grateful for everyone who chooses to participate during the public comments period. Even the critical comments, he said, help the board decide what future paths to take.

However, he reminded the audience that the board cannot change policies purely based on public pushback. The board’s decisions are heavily restricted by state laws as well as by funding. While parents, staff, students or board members may strongly want change, Noble said it is a lot harder to actually make changes when the board is so restricted.

Regardless, he encouraged both complimentary and critical comments as they give the board a good sense of direction.

— By Lauren Reichenbach

  1. Tests are only an INDICATOR of what students know, and many intelligences that aren’t tested. When students are told how behind they are, is that meant to be self-fulfilling? Instead, motivate learning, celebrate all that was learned during the pandemic, and remind parents and kids that with a focus on good mental health everyone can look forward to learning progress!

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