for the WASL
Ask any 10th grader in Washington state what they fear most about school, and chances are the answer will be “the WASL.” And for good reason: Beginning this spring, high school sophomores must pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, before they receive their diploma. Though students in fourth, seventh, and 10th grades have been taking the WASL for several years, the Class of 2008 is the first that must pass the test in order to graduate.
The WASL is designed to demonstrate 10th-grade achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics. Past years’ test results, says Seattle Pacific University Associate Professor of Education Greg Fritzberg, show that the most difficult subject area for urban students is math. With this in mind, Fritzberg designed a pilot program to better prepare students for that portion of the test.
A $40,000 grant from Washington Mutual enabled Fritzberg to partner with Seattle’s Chief Sealth High School Principal John Boyd to create a WASL preparation class that began in September 2005. The daily class is offered as an elective for students who want to improve their math scores. Co-taught this spring by Fritzberg and Peter Russo, an SPU graduate student, the course presents sample math problems from previous WASL tests. Many of these questions require students to explain how they solved the problem, which strengthens their writing skills in the process.
Fritzberg says he is hopeful that the program will make a difference for the Classes of 2008, 2009, and beyond. “Scores are going up, and we have good data that will help us improve our ability to help students,” he says.
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