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State-mandated WASL holds back only handful of seniors from graduating

Barely six months ago the predictions were dire, as last November legislators were told that 25 percent of Sunnyside High School's class of 2008 would not graduate due to WASL reading and writing requirements.

The news was even worse in Mabton, where early predictions estimated that half of its senior class would not receive a diploma.

The tassel has turned and schools are singing a different tune now.

This week the state provided school districts with the latest senior WASL results. According to those figures, seniors and school districts can breathe a sigh of relief as statewide 85 percent of seniors passed the WASL.

That trend holds here in the Lower Valley.

The Sunnyside School District has only eight seniors who failed to pass the writing or reading WASL exams. Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said those students were close enough to the WASL threshold that they will challenge the results and ask for a re-score. Cole said 251 Sunnyside High seniors are expected to graduate later this evening (Friday).

The numbers are much better than anticipated in Mabton, too, where Lucia Tovar of the school's counseling department says it's expected only two seniors will not receive a sheepskin because of WASL woes. Mabton has a total senior class of 47 students, with about 35 scheduled to graduate.

Grandview High School anticipates graduating about 135 seniors. Assistant Principal John Jennings said only one senior failed to pass the WASL standard, missing the required reading score by just one point. Jennings anticipates the student will address that shortfall during a WASL re-take this August.

Bickleton has eight seniors. School Superintendent Ric Palmer said seven passed the WASL tests and the district is still waiting word on one other student, whose WASL documentation was mistakenly sent to Sunnyside.

Granger High School and its alternative school will combine to graduate 80 seniors this spring. Granger High Principal Richard Esparza said three seniors did not pass the WASL and are working on a state-approved WASL alternative called a collection of evidence. He indicated the three should have their information together in time to graduate this summer.

Esparza, who leaves Granger at the end of this school year to pursue doctorate studies, noted that while 85 percent of seniors are passing the WASL, the state has a graduation rate of only 70 percent.

Nearly two in 10 students who pass the WASL will not graduate high school, state results show.

"That kind of points to the fact that the problem isn't standardized tests, it's the public school system," says Esparza. "We've got to face reality that 15 percent passed the WASL, but aren't quite meeting other school standards."

Cole says the class of 2008's better-than-expected success with the WASL is encouraging.

But there's still room for improvement.

"It's good news in that it's not as bad as we thought," he says. "But it's still bad news because we had some who didn't make it."

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