CWU News

CWU Helps Local Districts/Schools With Common Core-Related Testing

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — While the state of Washington did pretty well on the new Common Core-related exams, conducted last spring, Central Washington University remains committed to collaborating with state educators to prepare all kindergarten through 12th grade students to meet rigorous college- and career-readiness standards.

That’s the impetus for the Central Washington Writing and Math Project, a series of workshops designed to provide professional development opportunities and resources, and generate research to help improve teaching in schools and communities.

Washington schools joined six other states in adopting Common Core exams for the first time last year. Overall the results were reported to be higher than had been anticipated.
Those states, part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, received $330 million from the U.S. Education Department to develop tests for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. CCSS targets what elementary and secondary school students should comprehend in those subject areas at different grade levels.
CWU is specifically assisting school district representatives to make better use of Smarter Balanced interim assessments for ELA and math, which are designed to ensure students meet the new college- and career-ready standards.
“The goal was to help school districts expand their interim assessment practices and learn how to make the best use them,” said Mark Oursland, CWU mathematics professor.
The CWU workshops were developed by Oursland and CWU English professor Bobby Cummings. They co-authored a grant, which received $100,000 in funding from the Washington Student Achievement Council, for the yearlong university outreach.
“At the end of the academic year, project teachers, principals, and faculty will meet to share success, challenges, program evaluations, and plans for ongoing collaboration,” Cummings noted.
CWU professors Sharryn Walker, language literacy and special education, and Keith Salyers, early childhood and elementary education, along with teacher consultants Adam Eldridge and Glenn Kessinger, from the Yakima School District, and Laurie Lafser, Royal School District, are other workshop team members.
Lynna Bates, a third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade special education teacher at Cle Elum-Roslyn Elementary School, participated in recent CWU training. Following it, she said she felt more prepared to use the ELA interim assessments during the upcoming school year.
“They’re designed to give us feedback on how well our students are learning concepts and are able to write, so that I can see the areas of strengths and weaknesses for individuals and [overall] trends in the classroom,” she explained. “This data will show me what students have or haven’t learned so I can match instruction to student-learning needs.”
CWU will continue working with the districts and schools throughout the 2015-16 academic year, which also include the Ephrata, Kittitas, and Mabton school districts, along with Eagle Alternative High School in Toppenish and Washington Middle School in Yakima. 
Bates added, “The CWU Writing [and Math] Project has made me intentional, research-based and more knowledgeable about what to do. It has transformed who I am as a teacher.”
Washington is part of the Common Core Standards Initiative, a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It’s an effort to improve student success rates.
Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,
September 10, 2015