Test results show great strides at some Walla Walla schools

Blue Ridge, in particular, has dramatic increases in students meeting standards. The hard work is paying off.

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Walla Walla schools are, well, hovering around average in looking at the latest results of state-mandated tests released last week.

Overall, local schools made progress in some areas and struggled in others.

Still, great strides were made at specific schools. That shows the hard work is paying off.

Blue Ridge Elementary School saw a dramatic increase in the performance of its fourth-graders. Forty-eight percent of students met math standards compared to 8 percent the previous year and half of the students met writing standards compared to 27 percent previously. The most dramatic increase occurred with the fifth- 0grade science test. Seventy-eight percent of Blue Ridge fifth-graders met the science standards while only 11 percent met the standard last year.

Other schools, too, saw more students meeting the standards in science. The biggest jump was at Prospect Point Elementary, where 76 percent of fifth-graders met science standards. Last year just 25 percent met the standard.

Overall, the district appears to be heading in the right direction.

The somewhat turbulent nature of the test results are not unexpected as the focus of the tests seems to change from year to year. They've morphed significantly since state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn replaced Terry Bergeson following the 2008 election.

Given all the twists and turns the mandated tests have taken, the Walla Walla School District is doing relatively well.

Although these standardized tests are often knocked by educators and others, we continue to believe they are important. These tests hold students, teachers and school officials accountable.

No, they are not a perfect measure of progress, but testing can be revealing as it highlights areas where schools are strong and weak.

Walla Walla schools, to the credit of their teachers and administrators, have taken a reasoned approach to testing. They dedicate the appropriate time so students can prepare and they make it clear to students -- and their parents -- there are high expectations.

Ultimately, this is paying off in success in the classroom.

Maria Garcia, the district assessment coordinator, said a focus on math instruction can be seen in the strong math results.

And, she said, it can also be seen in the rising graduation rates. Walla Walla's on-time graduation rate is about 87 percent, with 99 percent of students graduating from high school after an extra year of school.

These are great numbers. That, however, doesn't mean Walla Walla schools can't do better. The test results make it clear more work is needed in reading and writing, for example.

Walla Walla, as a community, takes eduction extremely seriously and it shows in the progress made.

The community must keep pressure on school officials to do even better.

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