Mid-Columbia students increased their science scores on state tests last year, following the state trend.
The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released results Wednesday from its standardized exams during the 2011-12 school year. State Superintendent Randy Dorn applauded the statewide improvement in science and math.
Canyon View Elementary School in Kennewick is a good example of that improvement. About 63 percent of the school's fifth-graders passed their Measures of Student Progress, or MSP, science test during the 2011-12 school year, a 17-percentage point jump compared with the year before.
The Columbia School District in Burbank saw even stronger growth in science. More than 73 percent of its eighth-graders passed their science test, a 30-percentage point improvement over the previous year which beats the state average.
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"Our science instruction approaches an ideal mix of staff development, as well as incredible science resources that includes a hands-on element," Columbia Superintendent Lou Gates said in a statement.
Most Mid-Columbia school districts saw gains in other academic areas, such as 10th-grade math and fourth-grade reading.
Many districts, though, continue to have scores below the state averages in math, reading and science.
Fifth-grade science scores statewide increased 10 percentage points compared with the 2010-11 school year. Eighth-grade science scores were up almost five percentage points. Dorn said students having a better understanding state science standards and schools emphasizing science in earlier grades led to the increase.
About three of four high school seniors who will graduate in the spring have met all testing requirements for graduation and passed their End of Course, or EOC, math exam.
"Those trends are due to the great work that our science and math teachers do every day, and the fact that we have new standards that are clear and address what students need now and in the future," Dorn said in a news release.
Sixty-one percent of this year's juniors -- the class of 2014 -- passed their biology EOC last year, an improvement over the less than 50 percent of students who passed the High School Proficiency Exam, or HSPE, for science in last year.
Other elementary and middle school exams had mixed results. In the third though eighth grades, all but fourth-grade improved their math scores. Writing scores mostly were stable.
The state did not release annual yearly progress, or AYP, figures for individual schools. That data no longer is required because federal education officials granted the state a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, legislation which outlines testing and education standards. The state will release Annual Measurable Objectives data on schools sometime in September.
The Kennewick School District saw some gains and modest drops in scores. Like the rest of the state, its science scores jumped, particularly with a 10-percentage point increase in fifth-grade.
Tenth-grade algebra 1 scores improved, as did fourth-grade reading. The district recorded drops in 10th-grade reading, fourth-grade math and in 10th-grade geometry, but only by one or two percentage points each.
Bev Henderson, the district's assessment coordinator, said the scores were about what were expected. She said she particularly was pleased with the performance in science testing, both at the fifth- and eighth-grade levels and for sophomores taking the biology EOC exam.
Almost three out of four of the district's fourth-graders are meeting state reading standards, a little above the state average, but those students are below the state average in math, as are 10th-graders. Despite the district's fifth- and eighth-graders' improved science scores, they also are below state averages.
Henderson said she was perplexed how students who did well in reading did not do as well in math, and said the district will look at its data and other assessments to identify the problem.
She said it is difficult to accurately measure student achievement when the state's testing formats have changed so much over the years and are set to do so again in two years.
"You just never quite know what they're going to measure and what's going to change," Henderson said.
Pasco students recorded gains in almost every grade level and every subject on state tests.
The district saw sizable jumps in 10th-grade geometry scores and in fourth-grade reading. The district's fifth- and eighth-graders improved their science scores more than the statewide average rate of improvement, with fifth-graders raising their scores almost 11 percentage points and eighth-graders adding almost 12 percentage points compared to the prior year.
Assistant Superintendent Glenda Cloud attributed the district's success in raising science scores to more emphasis on science education. Teachers are introducing science concepts as early as kindergarten and integrating science into reading and writing, she said.
However, the district's scores in all of those areas remain below state averages overall. Even with the eighth-graders' improved science scores, they still almost are 22 percentage points below the state average.
About a third of Pasco's students are English language learners and include Hispanics, Russians, East Africans and other ethnic groups. State tests only are offered in English, and Cloud said the tests need to be offered in the language the student understands. Regardless, the district's scores are improving.
"We have a dedicated staff and the work we've been doing is paying off," Cloud said.
Richland school officials saw a few state test score averages drop slightly, but their students continue to meet or exceed state averages on standardized tests.
Eighth-grade science scores dropped a tenth of a percentage point in the 2011-12 school year compared with the prior year. Tenth-grade reading dropped about half a percentage point.
The district beat state averages in fourth- and 10th-grade reading and math and fifth- and eighth-grade science, just as it did last year. More than 77 percent of its fifth-graders passed the science test -- 11 percentage points better than last year's district average and above this year's state average.
"We're pleased," said Mike Hansen, assistant superintendent for K-5 and assessment. "We're continuing to see good things happen with the initiatives we have in place."
Hansen said the district's goal is making sure kids are the most prepared they can be for school. Initiatives such as the All Children Exceeding Standards, or ACES, program will ensure students are learning what they need to in the early grades so they don't fall behind.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org