WASL alternatives pitched to school board

Heidi Hellner-Gomez, a Sunnyside High School reading coach and administrative intern, presented the Sunnyside School Board with two possible alternatives to the WASL at Thursday night's meeting.

These alternatives are currently being proposed by the Washington State School's Superintendent, but have not yet been approved by the legislature.

With the way the test currently stands, high school 10th grade students have the opportunity to take the WASL, or specific parts of it, up to four times in an attempt to pass.

The first alternative Hellner-Gomez presented involves what many have talked about previously - putting together an example of a student's work to show what he or she has learned.

Hellner-Gomez said work could be gathered before the WASL is taken or after, but a teacher must sign off on the collection.

Once the work is collected, it would be sent to a state board for evaluation. That board would determine whether the work meets given requirements.

Where this alternative gets a little murky is what it would allow students to do.

A student may fail two parts of the WASL and decide to put together a portfolio of work for math, and decide to retake the writing section of the test.

The second alternative is a grade point average comparison.

In this alternative, a student who doesn't pass a given part of the WASL would have his or her GPA compared to students who have passed that part of the test.

If a student has a comparable GPA, he or she would be allowed to meet the standard.

Hellner-Gomez said this alternative also has a few bugs. It doesn't allow for discrepancies in grading styles between teachers. That means if one teacher is a particularly tough grader, a student may not be allowed to meet the standard even if the student would have met the standard being in another teacher's class.

Hellner-Gomez said these alternatives are currently being piloted, but Superintendent Rick Cole said the state legislature has a number of WASL bills it's looking at.

"There are at least 15 WASL bills that are out there," Cole said.

Cole said one of the district's biggest concerns is dropout rates. He said he's been asked if he thinks dropout rates will go up. "Absolutely," he said.

Cole said one of his biggest concerns with the WASL is Spanish-speaking students' inability to take the test in English.

"We are very concerned about kids who can't master English," he said.

Though the alternatives are proposed, it's up to the legislature to approve them.

"Are they going to take some kind of action?" Cole asked. "Yes."


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