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Dorn: 2010 State Testing Results Mixed
State Superintendent believes increased cuts to education and transition to new state exams are primary reasons for spring 2010 results

OLYMPIA – August 31, 2010 – State testing scores from spring 2010 were mixed when compared to spring 2009, State Superintendent Randy Dorn said today at a news conference to announce results from the first year of the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).

Dorn said he expected mixed results with the introduction of new state tests and online testing. However, he said the results also reflect two straight years of cuts to the K-12 education budget as many crucial services, such as after-school and summer-school programs intended to assist the most challenging students, have been cut or eliminated.

“Washington needs to recommit to education, and it’s not just me saying that, it’s the courts,” Dorn said. “We are facing a serious budget crisis in this state, but if we continue to cut education, the progress we’ve previously made will disappear. The state’s paramount constitutional duty is to fund education, and as long as I’m in this job, I’ll remind the governor and the Legislature of that every day.”

Shorter Exams and Online Testing
One of Dorn’s top priorities when he took office in January 2009 was to replace the Washington Assessment of Student Learning with shorter exams that were tied to technology. Shortening the exams increased instructional time and online testing proved to be more efficient and cost effective than paper-and-pencil, he said

“I’m pleased with the first year of online testing,” Dorn said. “It was a quick adjustment for schools and students to a different testing system. I feel comfortable calling it a big success.”

In all grades, the reading, math and science tests were shortened to one session. About 25 percent of students in grades 6-8 took the MSP on a computer in reading and math. Several analyses showed no difference in the results between the online and paper-and-pencil tests.

The feedback from schools and students for online testing was overwhelmingly positive. In a survey of 89,433 students, nearly 73,000, or 82 percent, said they would choose online testing over traditional paper and pencil.

In spring 2011, the state will add grades 4 and 5 to online testing in reading and math, and grades 5 and 8 in science.

Dorn said the major adjustment in spring 2011 will be the further shortening of the MSP and HSPE reading exams.

“We intended the tests to be shorter, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said. “We listened to the feedback from our teachers and immediately took steps to ensure that the length of next spring’s reading exam will be more reasonable for a one-session test.”

Dorn said the state’s move to online testing in spring 2010 is just the start of his vision toward more real-time classroom testing, where teachers can test students and immediately receive results on specific skills and knowledge. The state will begin a formative, or classroom-based, testing pilot in the fall, meaning teachers will be able to assess students on specific skills and knowledge immediately after the students have learned them.

Grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress
For the MSP, scores in reading increased in three grades (3, 7 and 8) and decreased in three (4 through 6) when compared to 2009. MSP writing scores increased in fourth and seventh and were mixed in science – down in fifth grade; up in eighth grade.

The reading, writing and science exams were based on the same learning standards as previous years, making comparisons from 2010 to 2009 and earlier valid.

In math, the MSP tested the state’s new math learning standards for the first time. Although score comparisons from spring 2010 to previous years can be made, the math MSP essentially creates a new benchmark, or starting point, for grades 3-8 math because it was a new test that that assessed new learning standards. The knowledge and skills assessed on the math MSP are more challenging in grades 3-5 and maintain about the same level of rigor in grades 6-8 to better prepare students for higher level math.

“Independent studies have rated our new math learning standards extremely high,” Dorn said. “The standards certainly present higher expectations for students, especially for those in elementary school. We think you’ll see students more capable and ready for middle and high school math in future years.”

Although the results cover just one year, the math MSP results also showed a narrowing of the achievement gap between whites and other races. One reason, Dorn said, could be that the new math standards are considered more clear and easy to understand for both teachers and students, Dorn said. However, he added, the state would need at least two more years of data to determine any trends.

In spring 2011, students in grades 5 and 8 will be tested on the new science learning standards for the first time.

HSPE and Graduation Requirements
As reported in June, the 10th-grade HSPE saw slight decreases in math, reading and writing. Science, which becomes a graduation requirement for incoming 10th graders, saw an increase.

Incoming 10th graders in the class of 2013 will be required to pass all state exams – reading, writing, math and science – to be eligible for a diploma. Last November, Superintendent Dorn proposed changes to the math requirement through the class of 2015 and a delay in the science requirement until the class of 2017. However, the Legislature opted not to act upon his proposal.

“If you look at the math and science results, the Legislature is going to have a real issue in front of them,” Dorn said. “I already forwarded them my solutions.”

Dorn said he will continue to push for changes, including the option for students in the class of 2013 and beyond to earn a fourth math credit to meet the math graduation requirement. Currently, students through the class of 2012 can earn two credits of math after 10th grade as an alternative to passing an exam.

“Giving students another alternative in math is the right thing to do,” he said. “The credit option has proved to be a successful route.”

In spring 2011, the state will begin offering end-of-course math exams in algebra I and geometry, or their integrated math equivalents. Students in the class of 2013 and beyond must pass both end-of-course (EOC) exams to meet the math graduation requirement; students through the class of 2012 can either earn two credits of math after 10th grade or pass one of the EOC exams to be eligible to graduate. There is no longer a math HSPE available.

As for science, Dorn said he still does not fully support a science graduation requirement until schools begin teaching it every day like reading, writing and math. In spring 2012, the state will begin end-of-course testing in biology, with the possibility of additional EOC exams in later years.

“We’re still at 55 percent of 10th graders not passing in their first attempt, and that’s with a score increase from 2009,” Dorn said. “We must increase the hours we teach science in the lower grades if we are going to hold students accountable to a graduation requirement.”

Adequate Yearly Progress
In 2010, preliminary figures show that 968 schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a decrease of 317 schools from 2009. Of that total, 1,129 are in one of five steps of improvement. For districts, 212 did not make AYP, an increase of three from 2009, and 110 are in one of two steps of improvement.

“I would recommend a complete overhaul of AYP,” Dorn said. “I’ve always said the intent of No Child Left Behind was good, but it’s a punitive system. Our state has high standards, and we do well on national testing, but by 2014 we will have every school in the state not making AYP. That’s completely unrealistic.”

The term AYP comes from the federal requirement that all schools and districts will have a specific – and growing – percentage of students passing the state’s reading and math tests each year. All states are required to have a goal that all students in all schools pass the reading and math tests by 2014. Schools and districts that do not meet AYP goals for two consecutive years move into “improvement” status and, if they receive federal Title I funds, face an escalating series of consequences each year they do not make AYP. Washington uses the Measurements of Student Progress and the High School Proficiency as its tests to measure AYP. (See “What is AYP?” for more details.)


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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   Updated 4/6/2011

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