One hundred percent participation would be too much to ask for, but Sunnyside High School officials are ecstatic over the near-perfect turnout by sophomores for WASL testing last week.
"There was excellent attendance, the best attendance we've ever had in the last 13 years," enthused Literacy Coach Heidi Hellner-Gomez. "We were thrilled!"
Last year's WASL exam sessions, by contrast, saw 30 to 40 students absent each day, she added.
Of 358 Sunnyside sophomores taking the WASL last week, there were no more than 12 students absent on any day, Hellner-Gomez said. "That's in the range of upper to mid-90 percent attendance," she pointed out.
"It just shows how serious the kids were about taking the test," Hellner-Gomez said. Beginning with this year's sophomores, all four sections of the WASL must be passed before a student can graduate from high school.
That seriousness of purpose Hellner-Gomez referred to extended not only in attendance figures, but in student diligence during the test.
On the essay part of the exam, more than half of the sophomore class worked on the test well beyond the two-hour window set aside. "The WASL provides flexibility so that if a student needs to work on the test for the remainder of the day they can," she said. "Of 358 sophomores, 180 or 190 continued testing (past the two-hour minimum window)."
Hellner-Gomez added, "I was impressed that they took their time, they didn't just leave when the two hours were up, but stayed and polished their final essay."
In addition to the serious nature of this year's WASL-students who didn't make it for testing last week, or failed a part of the test, will have to take the test again either this August or with the sophomore class next spring-school staff helped prepare students for the exam.
"The classroom teachers have done an excellent job of preparing kids for this test," Hellner-Gomez observed. "It's a serious thing, and the teachers are really giving them (students) the confidence to show up."
Families, too, aided the record turnout.
"We wouldn't have had the attendance without the support from the parents," Hellner-Gomez said.
Sunnyside won't receive WASL results until June, so it's too early to tell what kind of returns the high student turnout will bring.
But Hellner-Gomez is optimistic.
"I think that with the student commitment we had we'll see pretty good gains."