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Students' success rides on WASL test

April is test time for South Whidbey students.

While some may think of flowers in April, the district's fourth-, seventh- and tenth-grade students will have the three Rs on their minds when they tackle the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests shortly after this week's spring break.

Between April 21 and 25, students around the state will take the WASL. The test assesses individual student skills and is used to compare schools to determine which schools are performing well and which are performing poorly.

The WASL measures student achievement in reading, writing, mathematics and listening skills with a mix of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions. Results from the test will be released in fall 2003 and overall test results for the state's schools will be posted on the Web site for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, www.k12.wa/us/ESEA/.

The Washington State Board of Education has mandated that all students graduating in 2008 will have to meet standards on all four sections of the tenth-grade WASL. There are other requirements beginning with that class as well. Students must complete a senior-year project that demonstrates creative thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills, and each must present a post-high school education plan.

In 1993, education reforms were adopted by the Washington State legislature for all the state's public schools, including standards to identify what students should know and be able to do. The reforms also asked for school accountability in meeting academic expectations and results standards on the WASL.

Improving academic standards in public schools is not free. The WASL budget for 1993-2001 was about $51 million or approximately $29 per student per year.

By comparison, the Standard Assessment Tests cost about $23 per student for the basic test and about $50 for advanced testing. Standards-based testing, like that in the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, costs less than $3 per student.

South Whidbey students first participated in WASL during the 1998 and 1999 school year. Tenth-grade test scores have improved since the test was first administered during the 1998/1999 school year.

Compared with other schools in the area, the number of South Whidbey students meeting or exceeding test standards is increasing at a higher rate.

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