By Polly Keary, Editor
On Monroe’s various Facebook group pages, one never-ending debate centers on the quality of the Monroe School District.
People on each side of the debate are able to produce studies, publications and statistics to support their points of view.
Former school board member Debra Kolrud has recently cited a story published on socialcapitalreview.org in which Monroe’s eighth grade student test scores were shown to be the lowest of 13 reporting Snohomish County school districts.
Supporters of the school district have referred to other ways in which schools are measured, including the scores Monroe kids get on college entrance exams, in which Monroe does well.
Casual readers following the debate could leave quite confused; is the district in catastrophic disarray, or is it a better-than-average district?
In fact, there are many ways to measure the quality of the school district. On the next pages, we will present the results of some of the most commonly used measurements, in an effort to give parents and community members an easy way to evaluate the district’s educational achievement.
State test scores
Every year at the end of the year, students in certain grades take tests that measure two things; how well they are doing next to how well the state thinks they should be doing, and how well they are doing compared to the state average.
Children in elementary and middle school take the Measure of Student Progress (MSP) in reading, math, writing and science.
High students take the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) in reading and writing. They also take tests upon completing year-long courses in math, called Math EOC 1 and 2, and biology.
The tests measure performance based on the Essential Academic Learning Requirements, which are the state’s learning standards.
The state has established as a goal that students should leave school able to understand what they read, communicate well in writing, and understand and be able to use the core principals in math and sciences. There are other goals as well, but those are the ones most closely correlated to the tests.
Students test for the last time in the 10th grade, testing in all subjects. Students are required to pass them, or approved alternatives, by the end of their senior year in order to graduate.
The percentages shown on the table of state test scores reflect not the average score students are getting on the test, but rather the percentage of students who are passing the test.
Students pass the test if they are deemed to have met grade level standards, which are established through a long and complex process involving community members and educators. For a complete summary of grade level standards and what they mean, see http://standards.ospi.k12.wa.us.
Washington Achievement Index
State test scores measure student performance against a state standard and against the state averages, but some schools have differing circumstances that impact those scores. For example, many Washington schools have a high population of people who speak Spanish as a native language. Others are very low income. Some are quite affluent.
And there’s more to how well a school is doing than test scores. Are the test scores going up over the years, or down? Does one population group excel while another languishes?
The Washington Achievement Index was created to distill all those indicators of school quality into a single measuring tool. It uses a complicated algorithm to control for diversity among schools and make it possible to compare them objectively.
Students who plan to go on to four-year colleges take either the SAT or the ACT or both, which colleges use in determining which students to accept.
High schools in Washington are evaluated on how many students graduate within five years of entering the school.
Freshmen credits earned
In order to help keep track of how well students are progressing toward graduation, Monroe High School keeps track of how many high school credits students earn in their freshman year.
One way to measure how well as high school is doing is to note the number of students testing for and taking Advanced Placement courses.