S'side schools mull state pilot testing project

The Sunnyside School District could be one of just five in the state to not use the WASL exam in assessing student learning in some grade levels.

With prodding from the legislature, the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is considering a plan to administer alternative tests to assess student learning in grades three, five, six and eight.

Schools currently use the state-mandated WASL exam to evaluate fourth, seventh and tenth grade students.

During the off years-grades three, five, six and eight-a few districts, including Sunnyside, use both practice WASL and the Measures Academic Progress tests.

OSPI is considering a pilot project that would only use the MAP test during the WASL's off years.

Sunnyside is one of five school districts invited to participate, in part, because it is already administering MAP in conjunction with the WASL, according to Gary Vegar, an assistant superintendent in the district.

"Basically what they're doing is reviewing an alternative to the WASL," Vegar said.

The MAP and WASL exams both measure math, reading and writing, said Vegar, but MAP takes less time to administer.

Students take the MAP test three times during the school year to monitor academic progress. Each of the three exam sessions requires about 45 minutes of classroom time.

That is in contrast to the WASL, Vegar said, which takes an entire week to administer plus classroom time to prepare students for the test.

Another benefit of MAP is in tracking student progress through the academic year. The WASL measures student progress from year to year, Vegar noted.

"In some instances that's not the best test for the student," Vegar said of the WASL. "It's not necessarily tracking what's going on during the school year."

Even as OSPI ponders whether to launch a program that excludes some grade levels from WASL testing, Sunnyside schools are still unsure if they want to join in.

OSPI's proposed alternative during the off years is not without risk, since students must pass all four sections of the WASL to receive a high school diploma,

"That's our concern," said Vegar. "If you're not using WASL on the off years then your students aren't in practice with that assessment."

Vegar said the district will likely decide early in the 2006-07 school year whether to participate in the program.


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