Today’s Infoporn: Mercer Island School District Test Scores

There’s something in those Mercer Island house prices: school test scores. I came across this data on the Federal Education Budget Project site by the New America Foundation. They give you data in tabular form, so I used Tableau to create some interesting visualizations of Puget Sound school districts:


The NCLB scores are defined “according to state-defined proficiency standards,” which makes me think they’re WASL scores. One can absolutely question the WASL as a measurement of student success, but for comparing district by district it should be fine since students throughout the state take the same test every year.

So that first visualization shows that yes, Mercer Island Schools are at the top of area schools in terms of test scores. Now let’s look at some factors that go into test scores: poverty and funding.


Mercer Island has the highest math scores, but also one of the largest per-pupil expenditures at $8,357 (Seattle is the only district with a higher per-pupil figure, at ($9140). Mercer Island gets less of its budget from the federal government than any other district, at 2.9% (the average is 5.7%). And out student poverty rate is lower than all but Issaquah.

This data doesn’t do much more than reinforce the well-known link between affluence and school performance. Higher poverty rates make schools’ jobs more difficult. Federal funding helps, but doesn’t fill all the gaps. We’re lucky to live in Mercer Island but we’re part of a larger region as well, and not all kids in the region are getting the same public education.


5 responses to “Today’s Infoporn: Mercer Island School District Test Scores

  1. Yes, affluence is a factor, however there are other variables in play that should not be ignored. According the data you used, MISD special education demographic is 9.32% and their “English Language Learner” demographic is 1.77%. The two lowest performing districts in your table have a special education demographic of 12.12% (Renton) and 12.31%(Seattle). There English Language Learner demographics are 14.62% (Renton) and 11.58%(Seattle).

    Having a larger portion of ELL students is a known testing problem and significantly effects the overall performance of the testing group as a whole. In addition, the students who are learning English as a second language often do not read and write their primary language well either, so this glaring testing barrier cannot be overcome with giving the chosen test in other languages.

  2. mercerislandblogger

    Good points, lewlew. Yes, I focused on poverty rate and funding above, but those aren’t perfect indicators, as shown by Seattle’s relatively high per-pupil funding and relatively low test scores. There’s clearly a lot that goes into good school, and much of that can’t be measured.

  3. I think that it’s important to highlight your point about the small amount of federal funding the MISD receives. The more a school, or district as a whole, is independent from government support, the less red tape they have to adhere to. Each dollar brought in from the government has a stipulation tied to it. Public schools that are high functioning tend to receive a lion’s share of their money from private sources. Take a look at the Federal Way Public Academy for another example of high functioning, little government dollar school. They have some of the highest test scores in the state and do not teach to the WASL. Their curriculum is college prep.

  4. Pingback: Two Clutch Saves for Mercer Island Education « Surrounded By Water: A Mercer Island Blog

  5. Pingback: Time to Vote for the School Bond and Levy | Surrounded By Water: A Mercer Island Blog

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