Federal Way students prepare for WASL replacement

Starting next week, students in Federal Way will enter a new era.

The age of the WASL is over. The HSPE — or High School Proficiency Exam — will begin March 16.

Changing out from the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) was one of State Superintendent Randy Dorn's top campaign promises that he fulfilled after taking office in January 2009. The replacement tests are the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), which will begin in May, and the HSPE.

The new exams are said to be shorter, being multiple choice and short answer, and will take only one session to administer for most subjects, rather than the two sessions needed for the WASL. The writing portion of the test, including two essay questions, will take two sessions.

For Federal Way students the reading section of the HSPE will take place on March 16, with the writing section on March 17-18. The math and science will take place on April 13 and 15, respectively.

Another new aspect: Parts of the tests are online.

Federal Way students will be part of the testing group for the new online portions of reading and math of the test at various times from May 3 to June 4. Schools that are taking part in some aspect of the online testing for the district are Nautilus Elementary; Kilo, Saghalie, Sequoyah and Lakota middle schools; Federal Way Public Academy; and the Technology Access Foundation Academy.

Importance to students and the district

The test may have changed, but the seriousness of the test has not. The HSPE is now the test required for graduation. Students must pass the reading and writing sections to graduate. Students who have already passed the WASL reading and writing sections do not need to pass the HSPE; however, a student that had not previously passed the WASL must now pass the HSPE.

Younger students are also dependent on the new MSP to move on to the next grade level. The test is one of the standards the district uses to move graduate students to the next grade.

For the Federal Way School District, there is more than just reading and writing on the line. The federal government uses the state test to measure school success and progress, also known as AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Under the No Child Left Behind act, districts must pass dozens of categories, including having enough district-wide participation in taking the test. Federal Way spokeswoman Diane Turner said this year, schools and districts must have a participation rate of 95 percent to be considered making AYP.

The big changes

In the science section of the test, the changes include the elimination of extended response questions. The testing has been reduced to a single session, ranging from 75 to 90 minutes for grades five through eight, and to 120 minutes for high school students.

In the reading section, the passages have been shortened. Extended responses have been eliminated and two additional types of questions have been added — completion and stand alone. The test times have also been shortened: Grades three through five will have 75 minutes; grades six through eight will have 90 minutes; and high school students will have 120 minutes.

Changes to the math sections include new standards for grades three through eight; reduced testing time; and no constructed response questions.

Learn more

For a look at OSPI's press release, plus links to sample questions, visit

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