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Parents lining up for WASL bootcamp

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

It’s no secret that the state’s WASL test has met with opposition and resistance from parents, teachers and administrators alike.

But, like it or not, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) has become a part of local children’s daily lives. This year’s seventh-grade class will be the first required to pass a 10th-grade WASL test to graduate from high school.

The importance of involving parents in the educational process has always been a given, administrators say. But in the face of changing requirements and regulations, it has become vital.

To best cope with a district in flux, administrators have launched an information blitz aimed at providing parents with all they need to know — and more — about the WASL.

Parents at Federal Way Public Schools’ Valhalla Elementary School are listening. They say they recognize the need to learn more about this new fixture in their children’s academic careers, although not without a few grimaces.

Speaking off the record Wednesday, parents shared their fears and concerns about the WASL, but all expressed one common theme: The test is here to stay.

“I’ve never been a fan of the WASL, but it’s what we’re stuck with,” said one parent of a Valhalla fourth-grader. “Honestly, I should learn more about it, since she’ll have to pass it to graduate” from high school.

It was with that need in mind that parents, whether concerned, angry or simply confused by the new requirements, poured into Valhalla Thursday night for a 90-minute workshop, titled “Parent to Parent: Success for Every Child.”

Created by the state PTA and Partnership for Learning, the latter a non-profit statewide coalition of business and community leaders who support education improvement efforts, the workshop series was prompted by findings from a 2002 survey of 500 parents of public school students in Washington.

According to the survey results, about 60 percent of parents believe students should meet academic standards on the 10th-grade WASL and earn the Certificate of Mastery for graduation.

That number jumps to 82 percent when parents learn that students who don’t earn the certificate on the first try will receive academic help and have a number of chances to retake the WASL.

But the survey also found that while most parents have heard of the WASL

and the certificate, almost a third don’t know the state has

common academic standards for all children. These standards, known as Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), are the foundation for all of the state’s school improvement efforts, including the WASL and Certificate of Mastery.

“Information matters, and parents aren’t getting the basics,” said Jennifer Vranek, Partnership for Learning’s executive director. “These workshops are just the beginning of an extensive outreach effort to parents and caregivers about why we’re changing our schools and expecting more from our students and what role they must take if we’re going to be

successful.”

Valhalla is one of many schools throughout the state that is doing everything it can to educate parents about the WASL and the state’s new, higher academic standards for students.

“When families know what’s happening at school, students are more successful,” said Washington State PTA president Lisa Bond. “But even many of our state’s most involved parents don’t know how curriculum and instruction have changed in the past decade and what their children need to know to succeed in the classroom and after graduation. That makes it difficult for them to be a good support system for their children.”

The WASL is administered annually to fourth, seventh and 10th-grade students. It was created to measure new academic standards adopted by the Legislature, with the goal of improving student performance.

Staff writer Jody Allard: 925-5565 and jallard@fedwaymirror.com

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