Math aside, WASL scores shine


The Mirror

Federal Way students outperformed the state in recently released Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores.

The percentage of 11th-grade students passing reading, writing and mathematics was just above the state average.

Federal Way students continue to improve in reading and writing, but struggle with math.

The scores in Federal Way mirror a statewide trend of low math test scores. In May, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law a substitute to the WASL graduation requirements, delaying the math and science portion of the test until the class of 2013.

In Federal Way, the percentage of 10th-grade students meeting standard on the math portion of the WASL this year fell three points to 51 percent.

Superintendent Tom Murphy said that the drop is likely because students, upon learning they wouldn't be required to pass math for graduation, put forth less effort.

"Had the state not changed the graduation requirement, it could have been higher," Murphy said of the math scores, noting that some kids didn't even show up for the math portion of the test.

"There's really no incentive for these kids to pass," he said.

Murphy said he anticipates a dramatic drop in high school students taking math WASL-related summer school this year.

Although Murphy said he's not a fan of the math WASL, he was opposed to the state "unplugging the requirement."

The current math WASL is based more on reasoning and logic than traditional math skills, Murphy said. He noted that of more than 50 items on the test, only 12 cover algebra or geometry.

"I think that they've missed the mark," he said.

Murphy said he looks forward to the results of a study state officials will begin this summer, examining end-of-course assessments as an alternative to the math WASL.

Beginning with the class of 2008 (the current 11th-graders), students are required to pass the reading and writing portions of the WASL to graduate.

In Federal Way, 91 percent of 11th-graders have met standards in both reading and writing. Statewide, 87 percent of students met the standard.

In math, 65 percent of Federal Way 11th-graders met the standard. Sixty-two percent of 11th-graders met the standard statewide.

Although students are not required to pass the math WASL to graduate, they could still be better off if they try to pass it, district spokeswoman Deb Stenberg said.

Students who do not pass the math WASL or an approved alternative will be required to take additional math courses to earn a diploma, Stenberg said. Students who pass the math WASL could instead use that time for elective classes.

Approved alternatives to the WASL include achieving minimum scores on the SAT, PSAT, ACT or Advanced Placement tests, compiling a collection of evidence in a portfolio demonstrating work, or passing a WASL/Grade Cohort comparison.

The grade comparison option, available for students with at least a 3.2 grade point average, would compare class grades with those of students who passed the WASL. If the grade is comparable, the student will not be required to pass the WASL.

Students in grades other than 10 and 11 will receive their WASL scores in September.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

For more information about summer WASL preparation courses offered by the district, visit

For more information about the WASL and alternative requirements, visit

A retake WASL for 10th and 11th grade students will be offered August 6 through 9 at Federal Way High School. Students must pre-register before July 8.

To register, visit or call (866) 400-9275 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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