News

Here comes the WASL, but don't sweat it

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

While schools prepare fourth, seventh and 10th- graders for the upcoming Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), teachers are taking steps to reduce test anxiety, buoyed by the Legislature’s decision to allow students up to five retakes.

“Certainly, any test has with it a degree of anxiety and there are some children that no matter what the test is, perform more poorly than they normally would because of tension associated with the testing,” said Pat Cummings, assessment director for Federal Way Public Schools, which will give the WASL beginning next week.

To that end, Cummings said teachers make sure students take the test seriously without creating an inordinate amount of stress.

To minimize the tension of the test, teachers sometimes spread the test out over several days.

“I think the teachers do a really good job in trying to focus the children, without creating the undue emotional tension associated with it,” Cummings said. “They don’t want to transmit a sense of urgency and anxiety to the children.”

School district curriculum developer Mark Jewell said students who don’t take the WASL will not receive a high school diploma. This excludes homeschooled or private school students. Charter school students also must take the WASL.

And as the stakes get higher, anxiety can increase.

This year’s eighth-graders, the class of 2008, must pass the WASL as sophomores in order to graduate from high school.

This is also the first year WASL scores will be included on high school transcripts, said Brian Jeffries, an official with the office of the state superintendent of public instruction (OSPI).

WASL tests will be administered from April 19 to May 7.

Sophomores who fail it this year will be able to take it two more times, said Paul Dugger, state test coordinator for OSPI. And the class of 2008 will be allowed four retakes.

Meanwhile, OSPI is creating an alternative assessment for class of 2008 students who fail both the original WASL and the retake.

The University of Washington announced last week that it has added WASL performance as one criterion in considering recipients for the Undergraduate Scholars Award. The two-year scholarship, worth $1,200 a year and awarded to 250 entering freshmen each year, is based on SAT/ACT scores, grade point average and curriculum quality. The WASL tie, which goes into effect in 2006, was added to encourage students to do well in the test, officials said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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