Girls rule on WASL

Although the gap is narrowing, girls generally still score higher than boys on the reading and writing portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).

On the 2001 seventh-grade writing exam, girls scored an average of 22.4 points higher than the boys — the largest gap of any test group.

Girls scored 18.8 points higher than boys on the 10th-grade writing exam and 16.9 points higher on the fourth-grade writing exam.

“It’s not just CK, I think its true statewide. Maybe girls write more than boys do,” said Linda Elman, director of research and evaluation for the Central Kitsap School District.

The WASL is a state-mandated exam designed to measure whether students have mastered the state’s academic standards and to hold schools accountable for student achievment. Unlike other standardized assesments, the WASL asks students not only to choose right answers, but to explain their thinking, write essays and figure out how to solve complicated math problems.

The differences were not as dramatic in the reading section of the test, but girls still scored higher.

There were few differences between boys and girls on the math portion of the test, a patern which held up around the state. Listening scores also showed little difference between girls and boys, according to the OSPI Web site.

When it came to ethnicity, Elman said, patterns were not as clear. WASL results are broken down into American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Hispanic, white and multiracial ethic categories.

“Part of it is the numbers are small,” Elman said. “We’re 30 percent non-white, but the individual groups are small. The results are not a stable because one or two high or low performing students can change the average fairly dramatically.”

One category where a large disparity existed was in black/African American students’ math scores. In the seventh grade, just 7.1 percent of black students met the standard in math, down from 10 percent last year. Fourth grade black students’ scores also declined, from 36.8 percent meeting the standard in 2000 to 19.1 percent in 2001.

One bright spot was that 10th grade black student’s scores increased markedly over last year — 29.5 percent met the standard in 2001, up from 4.9 percent in 2000. This year’s scores were comparable to other ethnic groups.

Terry Bergeson, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, has made understanding the disparity of achievement of certain ethnic groups groups a major priority, according to Kim Schmanke, spokeswoman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OPSI).

“(Bergeson) said we need to take a hard look at why there is an achievement gap — at what is going on in their lives in the classroom that is not allowing students to reach their full potential,” Schmanke said.

The OSPI Web site revealed there were disparities in the scores of Hispanics, blacks and American Indians, especially in the math, reading and writing portions of the test.

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