No more WASL test starting in 2010

February 3, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Just a week into his new office, State Superintendent Randy Dorn ousted the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam.

To the chagrin of many students, the changes won’t start taking effect until 2010 and beyond. Students will still take the WASL in March and April this year.Two different tests will replace the WASL — the Measurements of Student Progress for students in grades three through eight and the High School Proficiency Exams for ninth-12th graders, Dorn said.

“I was elected on a promise to replace the WASL with a fairer, less expensive system of measuring student learning,” he said at a press conference Jan. 20. “This announcement today affirms my intention to do what’s right for our kids and our schools, and to deliver on that promise as quickly as is possible.”

The goals of the changes are to:

  • Shorten the tests.
  • Reduce the amount of time students spend on written responses.
  • Return scores more quickly.
  • Increase the use of technology, including use of computer testing.
  • Provide more information about a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses to teachers and families.
  • Minimize costs.

The MSP test differs in numerous ways from the WASL, Dorn said.

The main difference is the tests are computerized. Results from them should help teachers more readily evaluate and assess their students’ progress, and the test can be taken twice a year.

Other differences include a reduced number of long-answer questions in reading, math and science from 40 percent on the WASL to 25 percent on the MSP, shortened reading passages and more short-response answers.

The High School Proficiency Exams, like the WASL, will measure whether students have learned the basic skills in reading, writing, math and science before graduating. Like the MSP, the tests will be computerized, allowing a quicker return on student results.

They will also be shorter and contain fewer extended answer questions.

“I strongly believe in high standards and in using the reading and writing tests as part of our graduation requirements,” Dorn said on the state’s Web page. “It is also my commitment to streamline and make more readily available alternative steps to reach graduation.”

Continual improvements to the exams are expected, he said. But improvements will be tied to graduation requirements and other guidelines outlined in the 1993 education reforms, he added.

Officials from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will pilot the new computerized reading and science tests in 2010, and the new end-of-course math exams are scheduled for use in 2011.

Dorn said the statewide goal for computerization of all tests is by 2012.

“We need a state testing system that makes sense to teachers, students and families,” he said. “Our tests need to be tied to technology and provide immediate feedback to teachers so they can better assist their students. Computerizing the tests will also require far less resources, both in time and money.”

While broad information is available about the new types of tests students will start to take, there were no guidelines for what grade-level expectations or knowledge content the test will ask students to know, especially on the high school proficiency exams.

“While we don’t know many specifics on Superintendent Dorn’s plan, we will do everything we can at the district-level to make sure any changes to our state assessment system are successfully implemented for our students,” Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said.

Many district officials, like those in Issaquah, are waiting to see how the test format, content and expectations will change.

On the Web  Go to www.k12.wa.us and click on “Plan to Replace WASL Unveiled.”

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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