Some feared that the new academic standards of education reform, which include the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), would end with fewer seniors graduating.
But Auburn School District’s class of 2008, the first required to meet the new standards, is on track to graduate more of its members than did the class of 2007, an increase from 89.3 to 91.2 percent.
Kip Herren, Deputy Superintendent of Academic Programs for the Auburn School District, said last week that number could increase or decrease as graduation approaches, but 929 of the 1,008, or 92.2 percent, are on target with the credits they need.“We’re all tracking kids up until the 12th hour, but these are kids who are staying on track,” Herren said.
Herren said the numbers reflect the situation three weeks from graduation at Auburn, Mountainview and Riverside high schools. West Auburn High School was not included in the count because it uses different alternatives.
It has made for a challenging year at Mountainview, said Principal Bob Odman.
“This group has probably had the most attention of any because we are building a box, so to speak,” Odman said. “It is the first group to have these requirements in place that must be taken care of to graduate. I don’t think they were treated differently than any other group. But we had to work hard to make sure each individual student was on track and the parts that they needed were there.”
For generations, Auburn students have had to earn a total of 22.5 credits after the eighth grade to graduate. But education reform added more math, more science and other academic requirements to that core requirement. Today, each high school student must do the following to graduate:
• Create, review annually and finish a five-year plan for their four years of high school and one year after graduation.
• Finish a culminating portfolio and present it, demonstrating the connection between school and life after school.
• Earn a certificate of academic achievement (CAA) or certificate of individual achievement (CIA). Students must pass the reading and writing portions of the WASL or an alternative assessment. The state has postponed until 2013 the requirement that students pass the math and science WASL. Starting in that year, all students must pass the English, writing, math and science portions of the WASL to receive the CAA.In the meantime, students must satisfy other requirements to demonstrate their math competency.
The state also allows a number of alternative assessments after taking the WASL once, as follows:
• Collection of evidence – students submit classroom-based work samples from a variety of core academic and or career and technical education classes.
• College admission or AP scores.
• WASL/grades comparison – grades of seniors with a grade-point-average of 3.2 or higher are compared with the grades of students who took the same courses and met the WASL standard.
As of last week, 948 seniors out of 1,008 are on target to complete their portfolio requirements, and 72 have met the graduation requirements through one of the alternative options.
Students in special education can earn a CIA to demonstrate their skills based on their individual education plan and specially-designed assessments, and 630 are on track to do so. And 309 seniors, or 30.6 percent, are on track to earn a diploma but not a CAA or CIA.
Auburn School District Superintendent Linda Cowan said that the members of the class of 2008 knew they were under the spotlight and have risen to the challenge.
“As it appears 70 percent of the students will get their certificate of academic achievement, I think they did better than I had expected. That is outstanding for the first year,” Cowan said. “It is interesting – set a higher standard, expect better results.”