Spring Break will end abruptly for Renton School District students when testing begins next week for the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning). Elementary and middle-school students take all four WASL sections within a two-week window beginning Monday and ending April 25. High-school students take the math and science WASL sections April 15-18.
High-school students took the reading and math WASL sections in March.
“It does consume a lot of time and energy in the buildings,” says Randy Matheson, district spokesperson. “It’s taken very seriously. Students over the years have come to understand the expectations.”
The expectations are that district students will do well, and pass the WASL, which is the state’s biggest test. It’s used to determine if students are meeting state and federal education standards. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires yearly math and reading tests for third through eighth graders. Annual science tests must also be given to students in an elementary, middle and high-school grade.
Students in grades three through eight and 10 are tested in reading and math, grades four, seven and 10 in writing and grades five, eight and 10 in science.
All students beginning with the class of 2008 are required to pass the reading and writing WASL sections to graduate. But the State Legislature decided last year that students don’t have to pass the math and science portions until the class of 2013.
Students failing the math section are required to take extra math classes.
High schoolers can retake the WASL up to four times. Retakes are offered during the school year and summer.
Renton School District has added math classes to help graduate students who failed the math WASL. The district also began implementing Delayed Start Collaboration Times this school year, in which school starts 90 minutes late on 30 Fridays.
Matheson says the late starts are not intended solely to improve WASL scores. But he says teachers and staff members do share test-taking tips and skills during the collaboration time.
Many district teachers and staff have helped write questions for the WASL and score the test. This experience has allowed them to better prepare students for the test. But there is no “teaching to the test,” Matheson says.
“You can’t teach to the test,” he says. “What you can do is teach so students are better prepared to take a test like the WASL.”
He says many district teachers have incorporated test-taking skills and WASL grading systems into their classrooms.
“We’re hoping the results are much better this year than they have been in the past,” Matheson says.
High school students will receive their reading and writing WASL scores before the end of this school year. All other scores won’t be mailed home until the beginning of next school year.
Emily Garland can be reached at email@example.com or (425) 255-3484, ext. 5052.