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September 15, 1997


4th-grade test results back

  Tests 'tough' but make for better kids, NSD official says
   by Andrew Walgamott
   OLYMPIA--The governor and superintendent of public education announced results of new 4th-grade testing recently, and the numbers were dismal, with more than half of the state's students scoring below standards in the three Rs. According to state figures, only 47.6 percent of students tested met or exceeded reading standards, 42.2 percent bettered writing standards, and 21.5 percent scored above standard in math.
   Students did score high in listening, though, with 61.7 percent besting standards. State leaders say the tests will prepare students for the next century. "We have a steep mountain to climb in the next few years to bring all of our students up to the skills and knowledge they'll need in the 21st Century, but there is no other option," Gov. Gary Locke said.
   Superintendent of Public Education Terry Bergeson said headway had already been made in learning which was sparked by the 1993 Education Improvement Act.
   "We moved from the agrarian society of Thomas Jefferson to the industrial nation of Edison, Carnegie and Ford. Now we are looking to the age of Gates, McCaw and Condit, where education and learning are the critical resources. They are the difference between barely making it and getting on the path to the American dream. We must make certain that all Washington children have a chance to get on that path. To do that, we must raise our expectations for all kids and hold ourselves accountable for the results," Bergeson said.
   The 1993 reforms calls for higher academic standards in core subjects, tests to measure student progress against standards at the fourth, seventh and tenth grades, and a system to hold school districts accountable for helping students meet standards.
   Standards are determined by grade-level teachers and other educators. The tests were administered last spring. Nearly 68,000 fourth-graders in 270 of the state's 291 school districts were voluntarily tested. Seventh-graders were tested as well, and 10th graders will be tested in 1998.
   Northshore School District results were late in arriving from test scoring centers in Iowa and haven't been released yet. Dr. Pamela Steele, Northshore Communications Director, said she wasn't terribly surprised by the state results, especially in math where she says textbooks are behind the times.
   The new tests ask students to explain their reasoning to problem solutions. "They're asking for some pretty complex thinking, extrapolation and deductive reasoning," Steele said. But she said the tests would make for better prepared students entering the work world. "It's tough, but these kids will turn out to be the winners," she said.