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Walla Walla High School students scored 15 percent above statewide average in science assessment tests.

Walla Walla schools still have a lot of work to do, and no one expected otherwise, Superintendent Wade Smith said at this week’s school board meeting.

But there’s good news to share, too.

Smith was referring to last week’s release of statewide student assessment results from Washington state’s education department that measured math and English language skills in 1.1 million public school students statewide.

While Walla Walla Public Schools’ reading and math assessment results still lag behind statewide averages, the recently released data reveal positive trends in cohort results.

The results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment testing showed students in the state continued to make gains in English language testing, but those gains have not been echoed in math testing results, officials said.

Almost 3,000 Walla Walla school district children in designated grades completed the English language arts and math exams, and 1,289 participated in Washington’s new Comprehensive Assessment of Science last spring, said district spokesman Mark Higgins.

Higgins said examination of Walla Walla’s cohort data — that means comparing the same group of students from one year to the next — shows strong growth, particularly in English language arts. This year’s third-to-fourth-grade and fourth-to-fifth-grade groups showed an average growth of 8 percent in such scores.

At the middle-school level, the sixth-to-seventh-grade English language scores also increased by approximately 8 percent, and math scores improved by 6 percent.

Eighth-grade assessments also revealed improvement over prior years’ results, he said.

With math lagging in comparison at the elementary grades, classroom teachers are seeking ways to make sure students master grade-level content, Higgins added.

High school students also undergo assessment; last year was the first time sophomore students took the Smarter Balanced Assessment, previously taken as juniors. While high school English and math scores were below the state average, science students scored 15 percent above their statewide counterparts, officials said.

The district’s strategic plan calls for adopting better curriculum to support higher-quality instruction, Smith said at this week’s board meeting. Some implementation has begun with new K-12 language arts materials, and this year’s English language arts test results show the promise in the new materials, he pointed out.

Officials said they expect math scores will similarly increase.

For a complete look at all district state assessment information, click here.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.