How does your school prepare your students for the WASL? Do you have an overall philosophy, tendency, or set of ideals guiding your teaching?I don't presume to speak for all the teachers at my school. However, I do know what's worked for me, and what's worked for my fellow teachers in CHS's English department. I'd imagine others have similar strategies. I'll focus on writing, because it's been at the forefront of my teaching over the past few months.
What about you personally?
1. Philosophically and practically, success on the WASL is not the overall goal.
I believe that good writing is good writing, WASL be damned. If students aim for perfection through a process of constant revision and reflection, they'll become better writers than the baseline the WASL demands.
When I create or assess a writing assignment, I rarely think, "This'll be great prep for the WASL." I'm usually more concerned about the differing interests and abilities of the students in front of me. I want their writing to be authentic and thoughtful, and so I repeat this mantra: "Everything written is a work in progress." Every major assignment goes through three or four drafts, and gets feedback from peers and from me. We focus on narrative development one day, punctuation another, depending on what arises.
2. Even though I don't teach to the test, I teach how the test works.
At least once during the 9th grade and 10th grade years, students read WASL samples and score them according to the WASL rubric. They then debate their scoring in small groups, and lastly in a whole class discussion. They're harsh, even harsher than the WASL demands. (This is good, and it just might prove Point #1.)
3. Departmentally, we focus on WASL scoring at least once annually.
CHS English teachers score OSPI-provided practice essays using the WASL rubric, argue vociferously about the scoring, and then swap class sets and grade each others' students. It gives us a fresh perspective on our own writing instruction, and gives our students a less biased professional judgment of their abilities, without the stress.
4. Across departments, teachers share information.
For a couple years our school has focused on writing across the curriculum, with a measure of success. ("We're ready for math across the curriculum," a calculus teacher noted. I completely agree.) English teachers talked to various departments about assessing writing in any subject area. The administration provided funding for an afterschool writing lab, and, more important, reduced class sizes and a curriculum overhaul in the 9th grade year. (We'll see how that turns out in '08, but we're optimistic.) We presented our progress to the school, as did other departments that have undergone massive changes, in collaboration times set aside by our administration.
Hope that's what you were looking for, drpezz. Next question?