NASELLE — Test scores on the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) at Naselle Youth Camp School are skyrocketing compared to other juvenile rehabilitation institutions, but principal Lisa Nelson won’t be satisfied until “our test data emulates any public high school, but we cannot do that unless we remain open.”

The writing HSPE given to 10th grade students was passed by 63 percent of NYC scholars, compared to 35 percent for all institutions statewide. The algebra assessment was passed by 41 percent of NYC students compared to 23 percent of other students in institutions and 67 percent of NYC residents in 2010 passed the reading test compared to 36 percent for other institutions. As late as 2008 only 4 percent of NYC students passed the algebra HSPE examination.

“These are very good statistics considering we only have students for an average of 94 days,” Nelson said. “Considering that 30 percent of our students have Individualized Educational Plans qualifying them for special education services, these test scores are outstanding. Pre-testing of students when they arrive at Naselle Youth Camp School show that 58 percent read below projected age-level ability.”

Some educational strategies that worked at NYC include changing the language of mathematics. “Instead of saying ‘average’ we used the term ‘mean’ and instead of saying ‘likelihood’ we said ‘probability.’ We moved sophomores into algebra class to begin preparations for the algebra end of course exam whether they were ready academically or not,” Nelson stated.  

“We took practice tests to make sure students were familiar with the testing format. When kids asked to get out of math class, the answer was, ‘No. Not until you pass the test.’ We got a commitment early on from kids who wanted their diplomas and explained to them what kind of effort it would take. Our teachers challenged them to see if they were ready,” Nelson explained. 

“As for reading, we double-dosed our lowest readers and had them take an English and reading class simultaneously. We offered pizza parties to kids who met their independent reading goals. Again we took practice tests to familiarize them with the format,” Nelson said. 

“As for writing we increased demands on students around essay composition. Students were required to write everyday. We used our new computers to motivate students to write. Our students along with other area students entered the Longview Daily News poetry contest. One of our students won second place and another received honorable mention,” Nelson stated.

“It was an all-school effort. The health classes require outside reading. Our librarian ran an extra reading program for pizza reward parties. All of our teachers got involved and we continually reinforced that the tests had to be passed in order to earn a diploma. The teachers’ positive attitudes helped the kids’ attitudes, as well,” she said.

“We at NYC have a capable, compassionate staff that puts student learning as their number one priority. For many of these kids, we are the only opportunity at a formal education they have had. When you only have one chance to make a difference, you have to make it count. My staff takes full advantage of that,” Nelson said with pride.

Statewide 83 percent of students pass the reading test, 60 percent pass the algebra test, and 86 percent pass the writing exam. “Why would the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration want to close Naselle Youth Camp, a facility that is successful in working for the kids we serve?” Nelson asked.

The Naselle Youth Camp HSPE mean scores (average) for reading are 22 percent above other JRA institution scores, algebra scores are nearly triple other institution scores, and writing scores are almost double that of other JRA facilities.