WASL not an option for freshman

Freshmen wanting to get a step ahead in meeting their graduation requirements will no longer have that opportunity.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction canceled the option earlier this month as part of a cost-saving move.

Statewide, more than 35,000 ninth-graders were signed up to take the WASL. Locally, no freshmen at Coupeville High School signed up to take the WASL; however, 60 freshmen at Oak Harbor High School signed up to take the test.

Passing the WASL as ninth-graders would provide students with a chance to fulfill a graduation requirement a year early. High school students currently have to pass the math, reading and writing portions of the WASL to graduate.

“It’s a lost opportunity for those advanced kids to simply be done with it,” Oak Harbor Assistant Principal Bill Weinsheimer said, adding that eliminating the ninth-grade option simplifies administering the test.

The state agency first gave freshmen the option of taking the WASL in 2006 and the number of freshmen taking the test increased each year, from 6,300 in 2006 to 21,000 in 2008, according to information from OSPI.

By eliminating the freshman option, the state expects to save $447,000.

“In the past, OSPI has been able to financially support optional testing for ninth-graders because the number was fairly small,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said in a written statement. “Now the costs have grown significantly at the same time that an economic crisis is forcing our agency to cut optional programs and activities. This also supports moving forward with online testing because we would no longer have to print more than a million test booklets each year.”

Dorn’s office hopes to eliminate the WASL and replace it with a new test, titled the Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program. State officials hope the new assessment will be provided to students online. Students would have to take the new assessment starting in 2010.

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