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Reading Focus
Pays Off for Seattle

Investment in reading instruction techniques paid off for the Seattle Public Schools this year, when students in all the grade levels tested posted gains in reading and the gaps between racial groups decreased as well. Included: Tips for improving instruction on high-stakes test days.

After investing millions to train teachers in reading instruction, the Seattle Public Schools saw more than 60 percent of all students taking the 2005 Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) meet the standard in reading, as did more than 60 percent of fourth-grade students in the five major ethnic groups, according to an article in The Seattle Times.

The results "demonstrate that focused, sustained efforts to improve are succeeding for many students," Superintendent Raj Manhas said in a statement. "I am especially pleased to see the progress made in closing the achievement gap in reading."

According to the article, at all the grade levels tested in reading -- fourth, seventh, and tenth -- the gap in achievement between white students and every minority group diminished, except for Latino children in fourth grade and Native American children in tenth grade.

Results, though, also suggested the district's students still needed to improve on the math and writing tests, the article continued. "Our math results, despite some gains, are disappointing," Manhas said. "So math will receive prime attention... We must have a sustained, focused effort system-wide on math instruction, curriculum and materials, and professional development."

One of the district's best performers was Cleveland High School in South Seattle. About one-fifth of its tenth graders passed all three tests, up from 3 percent in 2004. The school more than doubled its pass rate in reading and more than quadrupled it in math, the article noted. Principal Donna Marshall credited the teaching staff.

At the same time, activities coordinator Carol Coe credited Marshall for launching a campaign to increase students' expectations for themselves. During WASL weeks, 11th- and 12th-graders were told to arrive two hours later than usual, which meant that during the morning, the entire school was focused on the test, according to the article. Hallways were empty and quiet. The staff saw attendance increase from 70 percent to more than 90 percent, the percentage school staff members had set for WASL weeks.


Some of the information in this article comes from the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more about this article, you might read:

  • Seattle's reading improves
    This news article appeared in the The Seattle Times on September 1, 2005. Note: This link was live at the time of publication. Some newspaper Web sites require registration. Others retain complete news stories for a limited time.

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