News

Local support for back-to-basics WASL

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

Governor Gary Locke was on the right track this week when he proposed amending the state’s new stringent graduation requirements to focus on the basics, Federal Way Public Schools superintendent Tom Murphy said.

The governor called Monday for an amendment of the law that requires students to pass Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) tests in listening, reading, writing and math to earn high school diplomas, beginning with the class of 2008. An additional science requirement is scheduled to kick in two years later, with tests in social studies, art, health and physical education required in later years.

Locke called instead for a focus on the core subjects — reading, writing, math and science — and continued student and educator accountability.

“We need to focus on the basics and hold districts and students accountable for the basics,” Locke said.

Locke’s proposal was embraced by House Education Chairman Dave Quall, who promised to hold a hearing on the bill next week.

Murphy applauded Locke’s proposal, calling it a “positive step” in the ongoing dialogue over the controversial test.

Locke also proposed more chances to retake the WASL for students who fail all or part of it in the 10th grade, as well as alternative testing for special-education students and students learning English as a second language.

It’s a necessary step, Murphy said, in the road to ensuring all students are capable of meeting the state’s new higher standards.

The WASL — never without controversy since its inception 10 years ago — has generated additional discussion recently over the wisdom of implementing stringent academic standards at a time when school districts are preparing for deep financial cuts. In Federal Way alone, district officials are preparing for as much as an $8 million reduction in state funding next year.

“I am still advocating, and will continue to advocate, that the legislators provide the funding we need to provide that all kids have the opportunity to be successful on that test,” said Murphy.

The state currently tests for reading, writing, math and listening annually in fourth, seventh and 10th grades.

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

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