Local districts waiting on legislative WASL decision

Officials see some positives in proposed changes.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn wasted little time in fulfilling his campaign promise to revamp the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). Local school districts are waiting to see what the state Legislature does before making any sweeping changes themselves.

“I think it will be interesting for all of us to see what the Legislature does with Mr. Dorn’s proposal,” BSD Assessment Director Bob Hamilton said.

That’s not to say there aren’t aspects of Dorn’s proposal Hamilton finds appealing compared to the current WASL format.

“The fall/spring testing format does allow us to look at progress in each school year with students,” he said, noting that the current WASL format only allows for one set of results at the end of the school year.

Dorn’s emphasis on technology as part of the new testing regimen is another plus, but Hamilton added, “It won’t be without some trials.”

Dorn’s proposal places a diagnostic component in the fall testing cycle, which Hamilton said he is looking forward to seeing exactly what means will be used to blend the diagnostic and proficiency elements of the test.

Another unknown impact of Dorn’s proposal is how it might impact the yearly teaching cycle because of the fall and spring testing sessions, Hamilton said.

“I don’t know what impact it will have on the rhythm of the school year,” Hamilton said.

While Hamilton and other state school district leaders are doing their own internal assessments of what the changes mean, 23rd District State Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) said overall she is pleased with the changes Dorn is implementing.

“His recommendations echo those of the WASL work group,” Rolfes said, referring to the group of state legislators, which released its final report on Dec. 30, 2008.

The changes proposed by Dorn have already been funded by the Legislature, so there won’t be any need for additional funding as legislators tackle the state’s current budget crisis, she said, adding that as state superintendent, Dorn doesn’t need legislative approval.

From her own personal perspective, Rolfes said she appreciates the diagnostic and technology aspects of the changes, not only because of the potential cost-savings associated with the use of technology, but more importantly their impact on students.

“I think these changes should improve student performance,” Rolfes said.

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