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Donna Gordon Blankenship Associated Press Writer
Published: 03 September 2010

SEATTLE (AP) -- Fewer Washington schools are failing to help students make adequate yearly progress, but statewide test results show many students continue to struggle to meet state learning goals in reading, writing, math and science.
Results released Tuesday showed fewer fifth graders passed the tests last year, and 10th graders showed a drop in passage rates in every subject except science. Both seventh and eighth graders, however, posted improved pass rates in all subjects.
State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn notes that some of the results are mixed because Washington recently introduced new math standards. He also says state budget cuts eliminated some after school and summer programs so some kids are not getting the help they need to meet state learning requirements.
``We are facing a serious budget crisis in this state, but if we continue to cut education, the progress we've previously made will disappear,'' Dorn said. ``The state's paramount constitutional duty is to fund education, and as long as I'm in this job, I'll remind the governor and the Legislature of that every day.''
Preliminary results show 968 schools did not make adequate yearly progress in 2010 -- 332 fewer schools than were on the list in 2009.
The federal standard is measured by state tests and graduation rates. Schools that do not meet improvement goals by subject, grade level and ethnic group are placed on this list, even if they miss only one out of 37 possible goals.
Every state that receives federal education money is required to release this list each August, because of requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools and districts on the list are required to notify parents of their status at the start of the school year, which is this week or next in most Washington districts.
Schools and districts that fail to make adequate yearly progress two years in a row are put on the state's ``needs improvement'' list. The longer a school or district is on this list, the more stringent the requirements become.
A total of 1,129 schools are on the improvement list and so are 110 districts.
This past school year was the first time a new, shorter test was given and the first time some middle school students took the test on a computer.
Education officials said they learned a lot from giving the new tests, and at least one lesson was a negative one. The reading test is still too long to give in one testing period and some students struggled to finish it in the time allocated, Dorn said.
Some of the improvement in math and science scores was attributed to the shorter tests, because instead of four days of math and science testing, students are now finishing the two tests in two days. That may prevent burnout and encourage more students to finish, Dorn said.
Dorn again stressed his concern that students won't be ready to meet the new graduation requirements three years from now, when state law requires students to pass both the science and math tests to graduate from high school. Last year, only 42 percent of 10th graders passed math and 45 percent passed science.
Starting next year, high school students will take end-of-course exams in math instead of one math exam in 10th grade. If Dorn gets the Legislature to sign on, starting with the 2014-15 school year, the state will also adopt new national standards and could start working with a new national achievement test.
Dorn said Washington's math standards are similar to the new national math standards and it's about time to rewrite the state's language arts standards so adopting the national ones could actually save time and money.

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