ILWACO - With students at the fourth- and seventh-grade levels continuing to struggle with WASL tests, both Hilltop School Principal Gary Flood and OBSD Superintendent Tom Lockyer presented separate reports on last year's results at Monday night's school board meeting.
Washington Assessment of Student Learning (tests are administered to fourth-, seventh- and 10h-grade students annually. In hopes of shedding some light on the improvements made and what can still be done, Lockyer reported on trends in gender and ethnicity between the fourth- and seventh-grade students. Hilltop Principal Gary Flood talked about trends in the fourth-grade scores.
The test was taken by 92 fourth-grade students last year at Hilltop. Flood showed data pertaining to specific areas of the test and how students fared.
Only 25 students passed in the math area of number sense, and only 37 passed when it came to solving mathematics problems and reasoning logically. Flood said they have looked at these math areas specifically and are trying new teaching methods in order to make improvements.
"We're trying four different hands-on math programs," he said. "We're tackling it and I think making some progress."
He also showed a detail of how many students scored a certain number on the tests, showing some just missed passing by one or two points. He said bringing up a student's score by one or two points would help the entire group score to be higher.
"We have some really good resources, and we have a good feeling," said Flood.
Flood also showed a breakdown of how students fared on the tests by gender and ethnicity. The resounding stat showed that male students didn't do well in any part of the test - they scored below the 50th percentile in every area except listening, which will not be on the test in the future.
The difference in the scores of Hispanic and Caucasian students is even greater. Fifteen Hispanic students took the WASL at Hilltop last year, and only 27.8 percent of those met the standard in reading, 11.1 percent in math and 33.3 percent in reading.
OBSD board member Kim Patten made a point to Flood and Ocean Beach Primary School Principal Bette Arne, who was in the audience, that when kids get to fourth grade at Hilltop it is too late to turn them around in time for that first WASL test. He said obviously needs to be done at the kindergarten through third-grade level.
"By fourth-grade it's too late," he said.
The one bright spot in Flood's presentation came at the end, when he showed that the school had made its annual progress target on the overall score. But he conceded they still have a long way to go.
Board chairman Ed Guelfi presented the fact that last year's 10th-grade students who did so well on the WASL were many of the same students who took the fourth-grade test in 1996-97 and fared the poorest of any class in the last seven years.
"Can we say that we learned anything from this?" asked Patten. "Are we doing something that's working?"
To this, Arne attributed the rise in reading scores from two years ago to the fact that those students last year had been exposed to the elementary reading program before coming to Hilltop.
In his report on WASL, Lockyer broke down the scores by gender and ethnicity as well, this time comparing the fourth-grade scores to those of seventh-graders.
He said he found that males in general, but Hispanic males especially, had the most difficulty with the test, most notably at the seventh-grade level. He cited that critical thinking was key in just understanding the questions asked on the test and wondered if these students can think critically in their own language. If not, "how do we expect them to do so in English?" he said.
Lockyer said also that seventh-grade seemed to be a drop-off year for all students, regardless of race or gender, with test scores generally being higher for students at both the fourth- and 10th-grade levels.
Lockyer said they are trying out new programs and new ideas, stating they already do ability-level grouping for students who need help, but may also try gender grouping to target those areas. He said they would need to try for more additional grant money to support these programs.
"I guess I don't buy it," said Patten to Lockyer, citing that there are other schools similar to Ilwaco that have the same make-up and yet do well on the WASL tests.
"I think we need to look at what some of those schools are doing. Look at the strategies of those schools. It's a complicated, big picture thing."
Board member Jim Sayce agreed and added, "We need to pick a strategy that works and stick with it, not change it year to year."
One such idea kicked around was all-day kindergarten. Patten was very much in favor of concentrating more on the K-3 area because he feels that is where it all needs to start and "obviously we're not doing it."
Sayce suggested if they need something that they can't afford in order to make it work, they should cut something else that maybe isn't as important in order to make sure all the students read at grade level.
"Those are the kinds of tough decisions the school board should be making," he said.
A comprehensive state report on WASL results may be found on online at http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/.
This website, among other useful features, compares local schools with similar schools elsewhere in the state. Comparing current WASL scores shows local 10th-graders five out of 10 in reading and two of 10 math. Alternative School students were first out of 10 in reading and fifth in math. Seventh-graders were seventh out of 11 in reading and eighth in math. Fourth-graders were eighth out of 11 in reading and ninth in math.
During the report from the facilities committee, Lockyer gave a progress report on the development and design phase for the elementary schools. Both he and Arne recently had a video conference with the architects from BJSS Duarte Bryant on ways to speed up the process a little bit.
It was decided in a cost-saving effort there will be a pitched roof on Long Beach Elementary, but not on the gym as originally planned.
Regarding the water tower at the Ocean Park site, nothing can be done to move it off-site in order to defuse the unsightliness of it. Instead, they will plant foliage and trees around it to "soften the look of it."
The Ocean Park School may also be fitted with cedar shake shingles for its exterior - they will put it out to bid with that and see what happens. They are still unsure if they will do that at Long Beach.
Lockyer reported that the issue of standing water in the crawl space below Long Beach School wasn't as bad as they had originally thought, after finding it was "99 percent free of mold" due to having enough ventilation.
Sayce also reported that the high school is overdue for a new public address, bell and clock system - a system the other schools will get in the remodel process. He said such a system would cost upwards of $70,000 and they will need to start looking for sources of income to support that.
Sayce also said large puddles at Ocean Beach Primary are going to be dealt with. The puddles are located in the drop-off area. Sayce said they would simply cut holes in the pavement there in order to drain them, while Patten suggested they lay down some gravel to keep the kids' feet dry.
New art curriculum
Pat Fagerland of the Peninsula Learns after school program and former art teacher in the district, gave a presentation to the board encouraging them to adopt a new fine arts curriculum - one many teachers are already using. The curriculum deals in visual arts such as drawing and the use of compositions, using real art terminology.
"It's the next best thing to having an art teacher," Fagerland said with a laugh. Her position as such an instructor was cut due to budget restrains this year.
Fagerland referenced a project she did with the Peninsula Learns students recently making masks.
"They thought they were just making masks, but really they were learning about symmetry," she said.
The curriculum has been developed for kindergarten through sixth-grade and is made up of the elements and principles of design, something that has been in place for well over 100 years. The idea is for teachers to be able to integrate these art lessons into other subjects like social studies and math.
"Even if they haven't taught art they can read the lesson and have no problem," said Fagerland.
She went on to say there is no cost for the curriculum, that they already have everything they needed or received through grants.
"The materials are different," she said. "From a budget standpoint, it's a trade-off."
Sayce said he really appreciated the creativity a program like this stimulates in students.
Patten asked about the students from seventh- through twelfth-grade, to which it was conceded there is a hole for art education after sixth-grade. It was thought the curriculum could be modified for a middle school environment once Hilltop is remodeled and the grades are re-configured.
The board unanimously voted to approve the new curriculum.
Hiring & paying bills
In consent agenda items, the school board approved the hiring of Tracie Kary as a special education assistant. The board also authorized the general fund accounts payable for October at $161,588.40, the ASB fund at $28,239.97 and the capitol projects fund at $128,324.25. The board also approved the co-curricular list for this school year.