While Longview elementary school students continue to score well below the statewide average on standardized tests, the district’s middle school and high school students have made sustained progress in reading and math over the past three years.
That’s according to the latest round of test scores released Thursday by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The new data also showed a slight dip in scores for the Kelso School District compared to last year, but overall improvement since the state’s Smarter Balanced test was first introduced in 2014. Overall, Kelso’s scores are much closer to the statewide average.
“The dip in scores this year is no reason to panic — it confirms the work we have ahead of us,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said in a press release. “It’s only the third year of the new tests, and some districts are still working on fully implementing the standards that these assessments measure.”
In an interview Thursday, Longview Superintendent Dan Zorn acknowledged that the results are a mixed bag.
“There are some things in the data that are encouraging and there are some things that are discouraging, and we recognize that,” he said.
Longview’s 10th-graders, for example, have dramatically improved their reading scores over the past three years, Zorn noted.
Since the 2014–15 school year, the percentage of Longview sophomores passing the state’s English assessment has jumped from 59 percent to 74 percent. That 15-percentage point increase caused the district to pull ahead of the statewide average of 73 percent this year.
Reading and math scores for Longview’s seventh– and eighth–graders have increased from last year, as well.
Zorn said the district also looks at testing data in three-year groups.
Grouping students this way allows assessment experts to analyze how thee groups of students are faring over three-year windows of time.
Meanwhile, there’s no denying that Longview has more work to do in bringing its elementary schools up to grade level in reading. Only 34 percent of third graders passed the state’s English literacy test this year, roughly the same number from two years earlier. That’s nearly 20 percentage points worse than the statewide average of 52 percent, although state reading scores have also remained flat since the Smarter Balanced test debuted.
“We still have a lot of work to do in improving the achievement levels of our kids,” Zorn said.
But an influx of state money for high-poverty schools will help provide additional reading intervention and support services for at-risk students, he added.
Under the state’s new education funding plan, the Longview School District will receive an additional $900,000 for learning assistance programs this year.
Zorn said the district already has extensive interventions in place at its high-poverty schools that provide focused instruction for students who are struggling.
This involves giving those kids “a double dose” of reading, Zorn said.
“It’s not that we’re pulling them out of their core reading instruction,” he said. “They’re given additional reading instruction to help with that.”
Zorn said the district is also in the midst of implementing an extensive training program for second grade teachers to improve effective literacy instruction.
Overall, 60 percent of Longview students and 56 percent of Kelso students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch this year, according to OSPI. That’s significantly higher than the statewide average of roughly 43 percent.
Reykdal said one of the most important takeaways from the new OSPI data is that significant gaps in achievement still exist in subject areas, race and ethnicity, and in poverty and mobility.
“The gaps are still substantial concern,” he said.