Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Study: Washington state math test is tough

SEATTLE — Washington’s statewide math tests appear to be tougher than those in most other states, a national study revealed Thursday.

The study compares the rigor of the tests states use to judge whether schools are meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The individual state tests — the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in Washington state — were also compared to the national assessment known as the nation’s report card.

“It’s not any great revelation to us,” said Joe Willhoft, assistant state superintendent for assessment and student information. “It is comforting to know that we have assessments that have high expectations of our students.”

The national study does not compare the achievement of students on the different tests, but it draws some interesting comparisons. For example, because the gap between state proficiency standards vary so widely, a student could pass his own state’s exam but fall below the line in a state with more challenging standards.

“It brings some level of context and understanding to interpreting our test scores,” Willhoft said.

He said the report offers a “common yard stick” for comparing a state’s reading and math assessments. The study is a repeat of one completed using the 2005 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP is given to a sampling of eighth- and fourth-grade students in each state.

Since every state sets its own academic standards and most have created their own tests to judge whether schools are meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind, federal education officials became concerned that the standards are not judging students equally across the nation.

This periodic report is a result of those concerns.

Earlier this month, results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress for math revealed that once again Washington eighth- and fourth-graders are both doing better than the national average.

On a 500-point scale, fourth-graders in Washington on average scored 242 in 2009, compared to the national average score of 240. Washington eighth-graders on average scored 289, compared to the national average of 283.

The study released Thursday showed Washington’s math standards, as tested until this academic year by the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, are among the most rigorous five state tests in the nation for both fourth- and eighth-grades.

In reading, Washington’s standards as tested by the WASL are near the top of states for eighth-grade and just above the middle for fourth-grade.

On a 500-point scale, fourth-graders in Washington on average scored 224 in 2007, which is the most recent year the reading scores are available. The national average for fourth grade was 220. Eighth-graders in Washington averaged 265 on the 2007 reading test, compared to the national average of 261.