June 17, 2008

Results of Spring WASL Test Encouraging

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Jun. 17--More than 88 percent of 11th-graders in Washington have passed a high-stakes test in reading and more than 90 percent have passed in writing, an important step toward earning a high school diploma.

Those figures for the Class of 2009 include results from the spring Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Three quarters of 10th-graders and one in five ninth-graders also have passed the exam in both subjects now thanks to spring testing, according to preliminary data from the state.

"I believe that we have set a very strong, important standard for education. The young people in the Tri-Cities and across the state have risen to meet that challenge," state Superintendent Terry Bergeson told the Herald in a phone interview.

Her office released preliminary WASL results Monday for grades nine through 11. Results for the Class of 2008 -- this year's seniors -- were released earlier this month.

A more detailed report that will include third- through eighth-grade WASL results is expected later this summer.

Mid-Columbia school officials still are checking the accuracy of the data they've received from the state. But the Herald was able to obtain some district-level numbers, and they mirror the state trend of high passage rates in reading and writing.

The results don't reflect the total number of students in each grade who've passed the WASL, just the number who passed this spring. Students have several chances to take the high school exam starting in ninth grade.

In Richland, nearly 81 percent of 10th-graders passed the WASL in reading this spring and about 92 percent passed in writing. Students must meet standards in those subjects through the WASL or an approved alternative to graduate high school.

More than 700 ninth-graders in Richland also took the test in reading and in writing this spring. Seventy-eight percent passed reading and 92 percent writing.

Most high school students first take the WASL as sophomores, but they have the option of giving it a shot as freshmen.

More than 21,000 ninth-graders in the state went that route this spring, taking the WASL in reading, writing and/or math, Bergeson said. That's a record number.

"Students are realizing this is part of what it (takes) to graduate high school," she said.

About 66 percent of the 110 Richland juniors who took the reading test in the spring passed and so did 78 percent of the 80 juniors who took writing, the district said.

Kennewick schools also saw a majority of 10th-graders meet standards on the test this spring. Eighty-three percent passed in reading and 89 percent passed in writing, the district said.

The ninth-graders from Kennewick who took the test did even better: 88 percent passed reading and 96 passed writing. About 300 freshmen sat for each of the exams.

Sixty-eight percent of the 118 Kennewick juniors who took the test passed in reading and 82 percent of 114 who took the writing exam passed.

The Pasco, Finley, Burbank, Benton City and North Franklin school districts didn't release results Monday.

Finley Superintendent Suzanne Feeney said she was hesitant because the numbers still are preliminary. North Franklin Superintendent Gregg Taylor agreed, adding the results don't paint the full picture of how students in each of the classes have performed on the WASL.

The exam isn't the only high school graduation requirement. Students also must earn enough credits, create a plan for beyond high school and complete a culminating project.

WASL math scores have lagged behind those in reading and writing statewide. Passing the test or an alternative in math isn't yet required for a diploma.

But students who don't pass must earn extra math credits and keep taking the test or an alternative.

Statewide, more than 62 percent of juniors have passed the math WASL.

The next opportunity for high schoolers to take the WASL is in August.


To see more of the Tri-City Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tri-cityherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.