Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Troubles for most Pierce County school districts in 8th grade

by Matt Rosenberg March 3rd, 2013

By a rate of more than two-to-one, public school districts in Pierce County last year underperformed the statewide average for percentage of eighth-graders who could pass Washington’s math achievement test. A majority of districts also lagged the statewide average in percent of eighth-graders who passed Washington’s reading achievement test. Using the Google Public Data Explorer tool and an interface developed by the Center for Education Research and Data of the University of Washington-Bothell, we run two related visualizations incorporating recently-released 2012 data and corollary outcomes dating back to 2006, in math and reading for all 17 Pierce County school districts.

In math in 2012, only five of 17 Pierce districts exceeded the state of average of 56.6 percent of eighth-graders getting a passing or better grade on the state math achievement test. The Dierenger School District – serving Bonney Lake plus parts of Auburn and Sumner, was far and away the leader in Pierce County state math achievement test outcomes in 2012. It was followed by University Place, Peninsula, Puyallup, and Steilacoom, which also exceeded the state average last year. Twelve others underperformed the state average, including Franklin Pierce, Sumner, Orting, Bethel, Clover Park and Tacoma.

State academic achievement test data for 2012 have recently been added to the user-friendly, interactive Washington Achievement Data Explorer (WADE) database operated by the Center for Education Data and Research (CEDR) at the University of Washington in Bothell. WADE is integrated with and can be explored using tools from Google Public Data Explorer. It is a community-focused, consumer-oriented tool – not requiring media gatekeepers to bless the data, which is easily customizable, comparable, and comes directly from the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

First, below, are eighth-grade “meeting the math standard” rates for Pierce County school districts from 2006 through 2012. They are ranked on the right by 2012 outcomes, but by hovering over any district’s name, its seven-year history for the metric chosen can be tracked.

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Next: results by Pierce County school district for percentage of eighth-graders who passed the state’s reading achievement test. Seven were over the state average but 10 were under. Outperforming the state average here, in order of results, were Dierenger, University Place, Steilacoom, Peninsula, White River, Orting and Puyallup.

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By clicking on “Explore The Data” in the lower right-hand corner of either of the above charts, you can enter the WADE interface at Google Public Data Explorer and devise a customized report from the state data, choosing different measures and districts. Demographic data for each district, which is often correlated with outcomes, is also available. Among other features, Google Public Data Explorer provides customized HTML embed code for each data set that is constructed by users. This can be used to easily create charts like those displayed here, for Web sites or blogs. You can also enter the WADE interface, with a tutorial, through the the UW-Bothell/CEDR gateway.

Editor’s Note: some of the general explanatory verbiage in this post was borrowed from a recent post we did introducing the 2012 WADE data, looking at outcomes for eighth-graders in selected urban region districts around the state. In coming weeks and months we intend to publish here a series of related posts using the WADE tool to generate reports for various grade levels and districts in selected Washington counties. We also expect to use the WADE tool’s capabilities to probe rankings of schools within given districts.


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