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WASL options expected to pass
Seattle Times staff reporter
OLYMPIA — Lawmakers struck a deal Friday expected to give high-school students who fail the state's standardized test three alternative ways they can graduate.
Senate Bill 6475 passed the House on Friday and is headed to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved.
Gov. Christine Gregoire also supports the measure, which would set up alternative routes to graduation such as putting together a portfolio of work.
Several bills were introduced this year dealing with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) because this year's 10th-grade class is the first required by state law to pass the test to graduate by 2008.
House Education Chairman Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon, said Senate Bill 6475 is only a temporary solution while the state studies its options in more detail. "This is not the end of the discussion," he said.
The legislation sets up several ways for students to graduate if they fail the WASL twice.
One option would compare their classroom grades with those of other students who passed the WASL. For example, if a student were to fail the math portion of the WASL but was doing equal to or better in math than classmates who passed the WASL, he or she would be given a pass on that portion of the test.
Students could pass a part of the WASL, such as the math section, if their grades in that subject were as good or better than their classmates who passed the test.
A portfolio of school work could show a student's mastery of subjects contained in the test.
For the math portion of the test, a student's score on certain college entrance tests, such as the SAT and ACT, could be substituted.
Students also could put together a portfolio of work samples to satisfy their graduation requirement. The state Board of Education must approve the details of this option before it can be put into place.
For the math portion of the WASL, a student's score on certain college tests, including the SAT and the American College Test (ACT) could be used instead of the state test. The state Board of Education has to decide where to set the qualifying scores on the alternative tests.
The legislation also sets up a way for students enrolled in approved career and technical programs to get a diploma by putting together a portfolio of work.
A different bill still moving through the Legislature, Senate Bill 6618, requires further study of alternative assessments with a report by Dec. 1.
The Washington Roundtable, a business group that has advocated keeping the WASL as the state's main graduation requirement, supports Senate Bill 6475.
The Washington Education Association, which has opposed keeping the test as the state's main graduation requirement, called the bill a move in the right direction because it provides some alternatives.
"But we have the same objections," said Charles Hasse, president of the WEA, the state's largest teachers union. "Having to fail [the WASL] twice we know will discourage some students who otherwise deserve a diploma."
Hasse said the WEA will continue working next session to remove the WASL as the main graduation requirement. The group argues a student's grade-point average should count more than the WASL in deciding whether he or she should graduate.
Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company