Wednesday, September 22, 2010

McGilvra still scores high

The beginning of the new school year provides a good excuse for an update on the academic ranking of our own McGilvra Elementary School. Last year, as you may recall, the State ditched the controversial WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) test. The newly elected schools superintendent, Randy Dorn (who was promptly arrested for drunken driving soon after assuming his new leadership/role model position) had campaigned against the WASL. So at the end of the last school year third through eighth graders took a different set of tests, the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress), which covers four academic disciplines: reading and math for all grades; writing for fourth and seventh grades, and science for fifth and eighth grades. With the exception of the writing test, MSP will ultimately be an online test for each of the six grades tested, though last year none of McGilvra’s students took the tests online.

The results are now in for all of the State’s schools for the 2009-10 academic year—and it’s no surprise, given the school’s consistently high scores on the WASL tests, that McGilvra again proved to be a high-achievement school under the new testing regime. Last year, as we reported, between 83 and 95 percent of McGilvra students passed the various WASL tests. This year, McGilvra’s passing scores ranged from 79 to 93 percent on the MSP.

On average, McGilvra outperformed the Seattle Public Schools by a 23 point margin on the eight tests, while the School beat the State’s overall passing scores by an average of 28 points. Looking at these numbers another way, the average passing score for all of Seattle’s 3rd, 4th and 5th graders was 64%, versus 87% for McGilvra’s. That equates to 36% more of McGilvra’s students having passed the MSP than passed in the Seattle Public Schools overall.

The biggest achievement gaps were seen for the fifth graders, who at McGilvra passed their three tests with an average rate of 87%, versus an average passing rate of 57% for the Seattle Public Schools. Notably, McGilvra fifth graders scored very high on the science and math tests (84 percent passing on both tests). There was a huge 50-point gap between the passing scores of McGilvra students and those of Washington students on the MSP fifth-grade science test.

Reading proved to be one of the strongest subjects for McGilvra students, with 91% of the third and fourth graders and 93% of the fifth graders passing the MSP. The average number of McGilvra students passing the math tests was 85%. Writing, however, proved a tougher subject, with only 79% of McGilvra fourth graders passing this test, just 14 points higher than for the City as a whole. This is an area that the McGilvra staff has been working on for several years, but 91% of its fourth graders passed the WASL writing test the previous year. It is likely, given the new MSP data, that special emphasis will continue to be placed this year on this crucial subject.

Interestingly, McGilvra’s teachers were slightly less experienced than for the Seattle Public Schools as a whole (11 years on the job versus 12 years), but they are more educated (72% have master’s degrees or higher, versus 53% for the Seattle Public Schools overall). The student/teacher ratio is also better at McGilvra than for the City as a whole (14 students per teacher at McGilvra versus 18 for all Seattle schools on average).

Finally, it is worth noting that the composition of McGilvra students is different in several ways from that of Seattle’s schools as a whole. Only 23% of McGilvra’s 257 students were classified as minorities in the last school year, versus 56% for the Seattle Public Schools. And only 8% of McGilvra’s students were receiving free or reduced-price meals, a low-income-family measurement. For the Seattle Public Schools that figure is 43%.


  1. I know this is difficult to measure, but it would be interesting to correlate these findings with levels of parental involvement in the child's education. I'd bet a school like McGilvra has extremely high levels of parental involvement.

    As good and well-meaning as the teachers are, education is primarily a parent's responsibility.

  2. Hats off to the students and teachers at McGilvra! The primary responsibility to educate our kids is a teacher. Our teachers spend more time in a school day with our children than we do as parents, when you subtract out the hours our kids spend sleeping or participating in sports. The positive influence a parent makes in the success of a child's education is well documented. Kids at McGilvra arrive at the school each day ready to learn. They perform better because McGilvra parents make sure their kids have enough restful sleep, eat nutritious meals, read books for pleasure, and limit TV viewing and game console play time. Parents prepare kids for the long days of learning. Let's continue to do our part as parents so teachers can do more with our kids in the classroom!

  3. I have no idea what relevance the Randy Dorn DUI arrest comment has to do with this article. Seems gratuitous to me and not helpful at all.

  4. Yes, the DUI comment IS gratuitous. However, public officials who act irresponsibly and then do not resign their offices are a hot button of mine. A cheap shot maybe, but an opportunity to remind readers what kind of person we have occupying the top education job in our state. Hopefully some of us will still remember at the next election.

  5. I agree with Bryan, Randy Dorn needs to go.

  6. Wow. Two whole relevant comments and then off on a tangent....and they say we have a short attention span in this country!

    Bryan, I am surprised you would go to all the trouble of doing the research and writing a post, only to aid in derailing the conversation later. If you want to do a post on personal responsibility, do a post on personal responsibility.

    Getting back to the point, thank you for including the last two paragraphs, they are really all that matters in this story. As someone who attended Seattle Public Schools (K-12) during the integration years and am much better for it, I worry that McGilvra students are not getting an education about life, not developing any street-smarts and they are in for a rude-awakening later. Book-smarts only get you so far in this world.

  7. Dear anonymous,
    Your sarcasm is annoying at best.

    I have always believed that education begins at home and children that are loved, rested, well fed and given positive direction and good boundaries will do well in school. Woo hoo. I am a living example of this. I work full time, make less than $40,000 a year in the non-profit sector and still managed to raise a bright, loving, happy child who began kindergarten already reading, writing and understanding Math. Yay for me.

    Forgive me for pointing out an aspect of the article that I felt did not belong in the conversation. This was not a tangent or a short attention span on my part but a sincere desire to stay on topic. Keep your judgements to yourself. Bryan, your blog is very good and I do appreciate it a great deal. I didn't mean to nitpick

    As far as your comment about street smarts anonymous, many children in Madison Park will be buffered from any rude awakenings by mommy and daddy for many years to come. No worries there. An education about life begins when we try to understand how the other half lives and develop empathy. Something you might want to consider doing yourself. If you are not a part of the solution you are a part of the problem.

  8. My kids attended McGilvra & then eventually went on to Garfield. My first child started kindergarten at McGilvra when class size was approaching 30, & the school was much more diverse, both racially & economically (although this changed dramatically by the time he reached fifth grade). I have to agree with Anonymous. The only thing that prepared my kids for high school in the real world (i.e. PUBLIC school in urban Seattle) was living in Madison Valley instead of Madison Park.


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