NASELLE, PENINSULA - "The WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) scorecard has been published by OSPI (Office of State Public Instruction) and the students of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District have much to be proud of," Superintendent Alan Bennett said in a recent e-mail.

"After looking at Bellevue, Mercer Island, nearby schools and some east side districts, it is clear our students outperformed the vast majority of schools state wide," Bennett continued. "Our students have worked very hard, with support from parents and teachers to accomplish this feat."

Meanwhile, the Ocean Beach School District has less to celebrate, as students taking the WASL last year were below the state average in all but two subjects - 10th grade reading and math - and in many cases saw scores drop from the previous year.

"Our 10th graders had 96.4 percent of the class pass the reading section of the test while the state average was 81.3 percent and 86.2 percent of our 10th graders passed the math portion of the test compared to the state average of 49.3 percent," said Bennett, who added that 93.2 percent of Naselle's 10th graders passed writing with the state average at 86.2 percent and that 65 percent passed science while the average passing rate state wide was only 39.7 percent.

Bennett says, "The science scores, although they are lower than we would like, have made dramatic improvement. Naselle science scores have come up to 65 percent passing in 2008 from 57.7 percent last year and 21.7 percent in 2006."

Ocean Beach scoresIn the Ocean Beach School District 59 percent of fourth-graders at Long Beach and Ocean Park schools passed the reading portion, down from 67.6 percent the previous year and below the state average of 72.3 percent passing. This trend continued in the other two tested areas, as the fourth-graders were down around 20 percent on the state average in both math - 37.1 percent passing, 53.4 percent state average - and writing - 42.3 percent passing, 62.1 percent state average.

The seventh grade students did better, but were still down from the previous year and were below state average in all three tested subjects. Fifty two percent passed the reading portion while the state average was 62.8 percent. Forty three percent passed the math portion, 50.3 percent state average. The seventh-graders did well in the writing portion, with 63.6 percent passing, as opposed to 69.7 percent state average.

At the high school level is where the district had its best showing. Eighty percent of 10th graders passed the reading poertion - up from 79 percent the previous year and 81 percent state average. Ilwaco students were on par with the state average in math, 49.3 percent passing, though down a little from the previous year, 52.8 percent. In writing, 78.3 percent passed - down from 84.1 percent the previous year and the state average of 86.2 percent. Science, a subject somewhat maligned on the state level, saw 35.7 percent of Ilwaco 10th graders pass - up from 26.1 percent last year, but still below the state average of 39.7 percent.

According to Ilwaco Middle/High School Principal Marc Simmons, judging scores against previous years and state averages can be like "apples and oranges" in some ways, but said that trends can at least be seen in how successful they are in their teaching methods. Simmons said that he is not surprised that science scores went up now that both science teachers at the school are nationally board certified.

"We're always looking to improve in math, and with our new K-8 focus, we should be getting to a point where all eighth graders will be taking algabra," he said. "We have to prepare them sooner."

One way Simmons said they will help prepare students is by offering math and reading labs in addition to regular classes at both the middle school and high school. And Simmons said that while he would like all students to pass the 10th grade WASL their first time (passing the high school WASL is a requirement for graduation in the state), he emphesized that students have multiple chances to re-take the portions they did not pass over their last two years of school.

NaselleIn the lower grades, Naselle students also did well, coming out ahead of state average in almost all categories.

Last year's seventh grade students came out ahead of state average in all three portions, scoring 84 percent in reading, 64 percent in math and 88 percent in writing. All but math were above their previous years' score - down from 77.8 percent.

In fourth grade 60.9 percent passed - down from 86.4 percent the previous year, and state average of 72.3 percent. In math 65.2 percent passed, up from 59.1 percent the previous year and the state average of 53.4 percent. And in writing, 72.7 percent passed, down from 81.8 percent the previous year, but above the state average of 62.1 percent.

"What is a common trend in education at the state and national level is that scores for student achievement begin dropping dramatically after the elementary grades in all areas. What is so significant about student scores in Naselle is that there is steady progress over time in the area of student achievement," said Bennett. "Our students don't check out after elementary school.

"I absolutely want to applaud the students, teachers and parents for all their hard work. They are really bucking a state and national trend of apathy after elementary school. I walk through the classrooms and see the hard work and preparation that goes in to this success and it's nice to see this evidenced in strong test scores.

"The WASL scores are very strong and reflect the hard work of students, teachers and the support of parents," Bennett concluded.

Observer staff Kevin Heimbigner and Damian Mulinix contributed to this report.

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