Sunday, January 27, 2008

reassessing the WASL

Make it shorter, make it smarter, make it actually useful to teachers. Small changes, if legislators go along:
With a five-year testing contract set to expire this fall, state lawmakers are discussing adjustments that would address many criticisms of the WASL, which is given each year to students in third through eighth grades and grade 10.

Educators have long complained, for example, that the WASL eats up too many days of instruction, and teachers can't use it to figure out what help students need.

In her budget, Gov. Christine Gregoire included money to create short classroom tests that teachers can use to determine whether students are on track to pass the WASL, and another set to diagnose why they fail. She supports reducing the length of the WASL for students in third through eighth grades (but not grade 10), which would mean less testing time, quicker results — and cost savings.

She also proposes translating the math and science sections into six languages, so that many immigrant students can show what they know even if their English skills aren't strong.

In all, Gregoire is asking for about $38 million for the WASL program in the 2008-09 school year. That includes about $4.3 million in enhancements, and takes into account an estimated $12.5 million in savings from shortening the exam.
No proposed changes for 10th grade in Gregoire's / OSPI's plan. For those who think the WASL's too costly, and was never meant to track individual student progress, this news won't change a thing. But at least it's an admission that, from a teacher's and parent's perspective, the WASL as it stands isn't reaching the standard implied by the second letter of its acronym.

Meanwhile, trouble still brews in the 12th grade...

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