The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) examination has managed to strike fear and trepidation into students, parents, teachers and school districts alike.
In a concentrated effort to allay any alarm and promote success on the test, Ilwaco High School presented WASL Night last Wednesday in the school library.
Vice-principal Todd Carper began by explaining that the WASL was different from tests parents may have taken when they were in school. "The WASL determines how students measure up to statewide standards and not how their scores relate to other student's performance," he said. "There are no percentile scores. Students either meet or exceed the state standards or they don't."
Students in the fourth-, seventh-, and tenth-grades take examinations in reading, writing, mathematics and science, and are rated from one to four on their performance in each subject area.
"We (the administration) look at trends from the WASL scores and see where our kids need to improve. Teachers then make adjustments in their curriculum to meet the kids' needs," Carper explained.
Why is the WASL so important? In 2007 this year's eighth-graders in Washington must meet the state standards in order to graduate. Needless to say, the education community is concerned with the accountability attached to success on the WASL.
While some details still need to be ironed out on administering the WASL and what happens if a student does not pass, the Ocean Beach School District is not alone in doing what it can to prepare every student for success now and in 2007.
IHS Principal Lisa Nelson outlined major program changes the district has implemented.
"We are using a holistic mathematics approach for K-12 which is more challenging and more meaningful to students. Last year we started a district-wide reading program and already our WASL scores have improved in that area. Next year we want to follow the same course of action for our writing program."
Jessie Cavazos, parent services coordinator for Migrant Education Regional Office 189, gave parents, students and teachers a hands-on mathematical problem, similar to those found on the WASL. His demonstration showed parents how they could help their children prepare for the state-wide test. Cavazos' activity also illustrated how the WASL has down-to-earth applications and is therefore an important measure of how students are mastering skills needed for the real world.
To generalize a mountain of WASL data over the past five years, the OBSD scores are improving, with seventh-graders slightly below the state averages and the 10th above the norm.
Carper emphasized, "Trends are important. One class may excel in math or listening and the next in reading or writing, but the goal of our district is to make adequate improvements in all areas."
The WASL will be given in late April with results for the class of 2006 being available by September.
While WASL results for OSBD have been encouraging, the attendance at WASL Night was not. Teachers and administrators outnumbered parents and students at the well-orchestrated and informative presentation.