Opinion

WASL: Renton has reasons to celebrate

Scores from last school year’s Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) were recently released by the state’s education office and Renton has a lot to celebrate.

Here are just a few highlights:

• Our comprehensive high schools saw phenomenal gains. Lindbergh and Renton High School were among the top five schools in the region with largest gains in the number of students meeting and exceeding standards in reading and mathematics, respectively.

• African-American and Hispanic high school students increased the number of students exceeding standards in mathematics, science, reading and writing.

• Students in English Language Learner (ELL) programs — students whose family’s first language is not English — realized substantial gains. ELL students in third through 10th grades saw dramatic increases in the number of students meeting standard and now exceed state results in reading, writing and mathematics. Renton High School’s 10th-grade ELL program increased the number of students meeting standard by 26 percentage points.

• Dimmitt Middle School’s sixth-grade special education program increased the number of students meeting reading standards by 26 percentage points.

• Fourth-grade African-American students at Campbell Hill Elementary School increased the number of students exceeding writing standards by nearly 33 percentage points, beating the state average score.

Even with accomplishments, we are ready and able to do better, for all students. The state’s education office has selected Renton — out of 17 districts that vied for the opportunity — to take part in an innovative, wide-ranging plan called the Summit Project. The project is designed as a partnership to support comprehensive and sustained increases in student achievement.

The process includes collecting a massive amount of learning and teaching data from every classroom, each school and the district to focus teaching strategies and resources on the best practices for educating every student from preschool to 12th grade, and will assist our very capable teachers in meeting the diverse needs of our students.

We are engaged in in-depth analysis of Renton’s WASL results for all of the students in each of the 37 categories that determine “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This is important work due to the unfair labels often placed on schools for not meeting AYP. The best example is identifying a school as not meeting AYP due to the ELL category (one of the 37) when the students are required by NCLB to take the assessment, even when they cannot yet speak English. Even when that school is successful in meeting and exceeding standards in the rest of the 36 categories, NCLB identifies the school as not meeting AYP. Regardless of the challenges in the law, we embrace the goal of meeting every student’s needs. We are committed to having all students learning to high standards and providing them the best education to help them realize their full potential.

The Renton School District is excited about what the future holds and is grateful for the tremendous partnerships and support this community offers to our schools. It is the key ingredient that makes Renton a great place to live, learn, work and play.

Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel is superintendent of the Renton School District

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