Stanwood-Camano students continue to perform better on state tests than the state average.

Local students posted scores about seven percentage points above the state average in every math and 10 percentage points higher than the state marks in language arts category, according to results released earlier this month from the state superintendent’s office.

“Our kids are continuing to perform at a high level,” said Dan Johnston, director of assessment and technology.

Now entering its sixth year using the Smarter Balanced tests, which cover English, language arts and math, districts like Stanwood use results to identify trends at individual schools and grade levels to find ways to help students.

“Our biggest concern is with some of the math data,” Johnston said of the 10th grade results that were 3.5% higher that the state average. “We’re piloting a new math curriculum this year at the high school and middle schools that is better aligned with the Washington State Learning Standards.”

The early results look promising, Johnston said of the new curriculum that was chosen by a committee of teachers last school year. The curriculum aligns with the recent adoption of an elementary-level math curriculum.

“This year will be first time that all of the grade levels are operating on curriculum closely tied with Washington State Learning Standards,” he said.

Per federal law, students take math and reading tests annually in grades 3-8, then once in high school. Students in grades 5-8 take science tests. All the tests, which about half the states use, are based on national learning standards.

Students earn a proficient rating if they score a 3 or 4. If a student opts out, his or her score counts as a zero, which is in part why Stanwood’s high school science scores were a low 22.8 percent meeting grade level — only 40% took the test. The state science test isn’t a requirement to graduate.

Replacement levy on February ballot

Local voters will to decide on replacing an expiring four-year levy in a February special election.

During its Oct. 2 meeting, the Stanwood-Camano School Board voted to put the measure — now called an Educational Programs & Operations levy — on the ballot.

It asks voters to approve a levy of $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would keep the total tax burden about $3.29, below the $3.51 the School Board promised voters. The $3.29 per $1,000 rate includes a Facilities and Technology Levy and the bond for the new high school campus.

In all, a tax bill on a $400,000 home would equate to about $1,284 a year going to the school district.

The big change is how the district can spend the money.

Levy dollars are now limited to “enrichment,” a term still being defined by the state Office of the Superintendent, but widely understood to pay for things above and beyond “basic education.” That can include more teachers to lower class sizes, extra-curricular programs and instructional training and materials.

In 2016, about 66% of the Stanwood-Camano voters approved renewing a four-year maintenance and operations levy. In 2017, the district collected the levy at $2.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That measure was about 23% of the district’s incoming money — $11.7 million — that year.

Because of the sMcCleary court decision, the state needed districts to switch from relying heavily on local levies to a more state-centric funding model.

So, the 2018-19 school year became a transition period. The state instituted a property tax to meet the court requirement that the state fund basic education. Then the state limited the amount local districts could collect from their levies to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

This spring, the state Legislature raised the cap on local school levies from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value or to a level that would raise $2,500 per pupil, whichever path leads to lower levy rates.

Stanwood-Camano falls into the $2,500-per-student category, meaning that in 2020 — the final year of the existing levy — the district is limited to collecting about $10.3 million, which amounts to about 15% of the district’s incoming money.

If approved, the replacement levy would equal about 14.5% of the district budget.

Donations

The Stanwood-Camano School Board accepted two donations for Stanwood Middle School: A Yamaha clarinet valued at $240 and Fender guitar 10G amplifier valued at $250.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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