WASL, senior projects top parents' concerns about graduation requirements

Everyone knew they were coming. But the new high school graduation requirements are hitting home this year as sophomores, the Class of 2008, are on the line this spring when they sit for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

The test itself has been around for years, but now high schoolers have to meet or exceed WASL standards if they want a diploma at the end of their senior year.

Superintendent Greg Lynch opened the parent workshop on new graduation requirements Tuesday by promising the 100 parents and students at the Central Kitsap High School theater there would be no WASL talk that evening, because passing the test has now become a requirement under state law. However, the WASL quickly became the recurring question of the night.

“This is Washington state law,” said Julie Goldsmith, executive director of secondary teaching and learning, after fielding WASL questions from every corner of the hall. “What we are trying to do is show you how we are doing it here.”

Yet, parents kept lingering on the WASL portion of the new requirements.

To obtain a high school diploma, students beginning with today’s sophomores, need to earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) by passing the WASL with a level 3 (at standard) or level 4 (above standard) scores on the reading, writing and math portions of the test. The class of 2010 will have to score CAA by passing the WASL science section as well.

How can the school district anticipate sophomores who take the test this spring will meet the WASL standard, necessary for graduation, asked concerned parents.

Indeed, the last time the Class of 2008 took the WASL — as seventh-graders in the 2002-03 school year — 48.5 percent of CKSD students passed the reading WASL, 40.8 percent cleared math, and 55.9 percent met the writing standard.

School officials, and even some parents, responded with examples from other states that have already implemented assessment tests similar to the WASL. In Alabama, for example, when an assessment test was initially piloted, 59 percent of students passed it, but when meeting the standard became a requirement, 93 percent passed. CKSD officials anticipate a similar phenomenon at local schools.

Yet, CKSD is not relying only on students taking the test more seriously when they know they are required to pass it to graduate.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Goldsmith told the assembled parents. “We are doing everything we can to help students identify (weaknesses) and obtain the skills (they need to pass the WASL).”

Last year the district distributed Student Learning Plans (SLPs) to those Class of 2008 students who did not meet the standard in their seventh grade WASL effort.

In an interview after the meeting, Goldsmith said the district is aiming for SLPs distribution by winter holidays this school year for fifth-graders (based on their fourth grade WASL scores); for eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders — all based on their seventh grade scores.

A question about special education students was answered too — a Certificate of Individual Achievement will replace the CAA for those students and still earn them a regular high school diploma.

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