Preliminary WASL scores out

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:33am

At least 461 Shoreline School District sophomores have passed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL. Hundreds of others who didn’t pass will — sigh — sign up for summer school or take extra classes next year and try again.

This is the first year 10th-graders statewide must pass the WASL to earn their diplomas as seniors, and many who didn’t pass may be nervous at the thought of having to do it all over again.

A number of factors — from WASL retakes to support classes to proposed alternate assessments — may help ease those jitters.

The numbers

At the Enterprise deadline, 461 sophomores — or 67 percent of those whose tests were tallied — passed all three sections of the WASL. 228 students didn’t pass.

The state released the preliminary scores this month.

The total number of district tests tallied was 689, but there are over 800 sophomores total. The remaining tests have yet to be verified, Potter said.

The percentages are only estimates, and the final results that come out in August will be different.

“In reading we’ve been increasing every year, in writing we had a huge gain, (and) in math a slight increase, but fairly flat compared to last year,” said Nina Potter, director of assessment and student information. “Compared to the rest of the state we’re doing fairly well.”

According to estimates, 10th grade reading scores jumped to 92 percent meeting standard from 83 percent last year. Writing saw an even bigger jump, to 92 percent this year from 74 percent last year.

In math, 66 percent of students met standard this year, compared with 65 percent last year.

The state had expected a 15 percent jump overall, as this was the first year the test was required to graduate, Potter said.

“The kids are more serious when they know they have to pass it for graduation,” she said.

Compared to 12 other local districts, Shoreline placed third in reading and writing, behind the Lake Washington and Northshore School districts and fourth in math, behind Lake Washington, Northshore and Bellevue.

WASL support classes

Students who didn’t meet standard on the WASL can retake the test four times at no cost. The first retakes are Aug. 7-10.

The district is offering free summer courses July 10 through Aug. 1 to help students who are just below standard pass the test.

“For sophomores who didn’t pass the WASL, we’re giving them the opportunity to improve their skills so they can pass the WASL in August,” said Linda Gohlke, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district. “It’s for students just below standard.”

Students who are further below standard can take course offerings next year that could include before or after-school tutoring, Saturday classes and classes held during the school day.

The district is still working on those offerings.

“We’ll have to find lots of different times for students,” Gohlke said.

The classes will be funded with state money, through the Promoting Academic Success program. The district will receive about $20,000 for summer offerings and about $120,000 for support classes next year.

Alternate assessments

If students fail the test a second time, they could have the option of alternate assessments.

This year, the state legislature passed a law outlining what those assessments should look like. The details have yet to be worked out, but students who fail the WASL could still graduate on the basis of:

• A combination of their grades in applicable courses and their highest score on the WASL.

“Say a student doesn’t meet standard on the math test two times,” said Potter. “They look at the math classes they took and compare the grades with students (in those classes) who did pass the WASL.”

If the student has a grade equal to or above the mean of the grades of students in the same classes who passed the math section of the WASL, the student would be allowed to pass that portion of the WASL.

“Some students freeze on a test, but in math class there’s not the same anxiety,” Potter said.

•A collection of student work samples, or portfolio.

“The state will give us the guidelines for what kind of samples the students need to have,” Potter said.

The evaluation of the samples will be done at the state level and the standards will be as rigorous as the WASL standards, Potter said.

•A career and technical education collection of work samples with approved vocational certification.

•A passing math score on the PSAT, SAT or ACT.

The math portions of those tests can be used as a substitute for the math portion of the WASL, but the state hasn’t decided what score would be needed to meet standard, Potter said.

But in order for any student to take an alternate assessment, he or she must have first fulfilled a student learning plan.

“This year, any student who did not meet standard on the fourth or seventh grade WASL had to have a student learning plan,” Potter said.

The plan, individual for each student, addresses what the school, parents and the student will do to help the student meet standard.

That could mean meeting a certain attendance level or taking a special reading course.

“In order for them to take the alternatives, they have to show they’ve met remidiation in (the plan),” Gohlke said.

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