Highline sixth-graders close gap in math scores

Highline public school students have closed the gap in test scores with other students in the state in math for every grade level.

That was among the conclusions presented Sept. 12 to Highline School Board members by the district’s chief accountability officer, Alan Spicciati.

Spicciati highlighted state test scores achieved by sixth-graders during the spring tests. The state standard was met by 61.9 percent of Highline sixth-graders. The state average for meeting the standard was 61.4 percent, slightly below Highline’s percentage.

He said the district realized it had a problem after the 2006-2007 school year when only 32.9 percent of Highline sixth-graders met the math standard, compared to 49.6 percent statewide.

“It would have been hard to find anyone then who would have bet on Highline catching up,” Spicciati declared.

He noted the district as a whole improved math scores by 29 percent. Latino students gained 30 points.

“If we can do it in sixth-grade math, we can do it anywhere,” Spicciati declared.

This year’s seniors are the first class that must meet state math standards in order to graduate. Spicciati said 393 district seniors have not met the standard while 853 have.

While special education students have alternatives, most students who have not met standards must either pass an end of course assessment in algebra or geometry or present a collection of evidence that they are proficient in math, according to Spicciati.

Spicciati admitted that reading scores are on a plateau. The district previously emphasized literacy, sometimes receiving complaints that other subjects Such as social studies and art have been ignored.

The district made “small gains” in writing and science, he noted.

Achievement gaps in test scores between racial and ethnic groups continue to be large but all groups are doing better in math, he said.

Superintendent Susan Enfield said there were “promising trends” in the test scores.

Board member Susan Goding asked if administrators would cut back on programs that have not worked or continue layering on new programs.

Enfield replied the district “wants to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater” but would evaluate what is working.

The new superintendent reported on the “amazing start of the school year.” She said by the end of the week she would have visited all district schools.

She praised the “hope and excitement and enthusiasm” of the staff and students.

“I have never entered a job where I have been so warmly welcomed,” Enfield concluded.

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