State school officials handed out 362 achievement awards to 274 schools last week. Fifteen of them went to local schools, with CAM Junior/Senior High School in Battle Ground tied with a Bellevue school for collecting the most — five — awards.
Awards were given in six categories: for overall excellence; for special recognition in language arts, math, science or extended graduation rate; and for closing the achievement gap between white or Asian students and those of other ethnicities.
The honors reflect performance in key areas of an achievement index compiled annually by the State Board of Education.
The overall excellence award, for a high score on the achievement index as a whole, considers not only how well a school’s students did, but also how the school measures up to other schools of similar demographics and how much it improved or worsened over the last year. Adding in those factors is an attempt to balance out the effects of poverty and other issues that can affect test scores but are outside of a school’s control, said Sarah Rich, research director for the state board.
A list of Southwest Washington schools’ results for that index shows that the approach may be working. High-poverty schools can be found on the top and bottom of the list. (A searchable database is on our website: http://columbian.com/datacenter.)
The top spots are taken up by schools of choice, which is not surprising, given that students and their parents must be motivated to be enrolled in those schools. And some of the schools at the very bottom are the alternative schools tasked with reintegrating students who dropped out previously.
But some schools fighting challenges were at the top, too. Woodland High School, where nearly half of all students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch — a common measure of poverty — came in third among area schools. And Riverview Elementary in the Evergreen school district was fourth. It has a poverty rate of nearly 40 percent and one-fifth of its students need special education services, according to state records.
Pleasant Valley Primary in the Battle Ground school district, on the other hand, has demographics nearly identical to Riverview’s, but is among the bottom four on the list. Its 2.33 rating — out of a possible 7 — put the school in the “struggling” category.
Overall, about two-thirds of area schools earned classifications of “exemplary,” “very good” or “good.”