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Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL)

The WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) is a new form of test, designed to measure elements of student learning that previous testing ignored. It was designed with enormous care to measure very specifically the learning being mandated by the EALRs. The process of devising, testing, re-writing, conferring with different constituents and re-re-writing took several years of work by experts in the field of assessment. After that came more time spent in devising a way to grade it fairly and equitably.

Unfortunately, just as it was being finished up the No Child Left Behind legislation went into effect, thereby turning what was intended as a diagnostic test that also held up to teachers a model of the kind of learning being sought into a high-stakes, heavy-pressure behemoth and distorting many people’s views of it. With the decision to use the 10th grade WASL as a graduation requirement the situation became volatile.

This year’s discovery that 50% of the state’s sophomores couldn’t pass the test produced a flurry of rhetoric in which two basic facts tended to be lost to view. One is that this year’s test results, while distressing, were in fact appreciably better than last year’s. Progress is being made. And the other is that the WASL is measuring students’ understanding of basic material of which any citizen stands in need. The fact that this understanding wasn’t tested for before reduced the pressure on teachers and school systems to teach it. Now the pressure is there, and a great deal of effort is going into building the needed understanding from pre-school on up. But a change of that scope cannot happen quickly, and is still very much a work in progress.

OSPI Assessment Website

Sample WASL Math Questions

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