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Bremerton students ready for WASL

District staff confident about preparations.

When Bremerton High School sophomores embark on the reading and writing portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) on Monday, they should be well-prepared to accomplish the task before them, according to Bremerton School District Director of Special Education and Assessment Bob Hamilton.

“Our teachers do a really good job of preparing students for the test,” Hamilton said, noting that teachers often use real WASL questions as part of their classroom instruction.

Additionally, teachers do things such as incorporating math questions, which require writing, extend tasks over two class periods and find other creative ways to incorporate WASL-type materials and methods into students’ everyday learning, he said.

“Our hope is that when kids take the test there won’t be anything that they aren’t familiar with or haven’t seen before,” he said, adding that the familiarity with the test material is important in helping students feel at ease during test week.

Throughout the course of the school year, parents have been handed grade level expectations on the WASL sheets that outline exactly what their children will be tested on and provides a Web site for parents to see exactly what types of questions are going to be on the WASL, he said.

Well before the testing period arrives, each principal sends letters to parents explaining what the WASL is, when their children will be taking it and what it means in terms of their children’s educational future, he said.

“No one won’t be able to go to college because of the WASL, and no one can get a zero on the WASL, and no one max out on it,” he said, stating that unlike other standardized tests the WASL measures to a statewide standard and doesn’t compare individual test scores.

Because the WASL isn’t a timed test, students will have plenty of time to go back and answer questions they didn’t get to the first time through the test and if they are unclear about the directions for the test, teachers will be more than happy to readdress those instructions, he said.

During testing periods students also are provided snacks as the teachers and staff do all they can to make the testing environment as comfortable and relaxed as possible, he said.

When the test results are announced during the summer, parents shouldn’t be surprised by their students’ results, because the district does its best to reflect what students are learning in their report cards, which are based in large part upon WASL components, he said.

“We’re trying to find out what they know and not what they don’t know,” he said.

Next year the WASL format will be changed, which Hamilton said is a good thing, although there is a common misperception about its diagnostic potential.

“A diagnostic test is totally different than a standards-based test, but teachers will have a gauge as to where students are in certain areas,” he said.

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