18 April 2005

Here We Come a'WASL-ing...

Yes, it's time once again for the spring ritual known as "WASL." WASL is an acronym for the "Washington Assessment of Student Learning." Students in grades 3 - 8 and 10 sit for exams in reading, writing, and math. Grades 5, 8, and 10 also complete a science assessment.

Tomorrow is the big day: the start of standardized testing. For 10th grade, it is our first year giving it as a "high stakes test," although this group represents the last class for whom passage of the WASL is not required for graduation. So, what are the stakes? Scores are printed on transcripts---potentially impacting college admissions, scholarships, and hiring for jobs. Other than that, there's just "shame."

For schools, it's a different story. Test security has been ramped up. All high schools across the state will give the same test at the same time over the next school days. Students are forbidden to talk about the exam questions (after the test) amongst themselves or with teachers.

The second part will be more difficult. I already know that kids will come back from their science WASL and want to talk to me about it. "There was this question...and it asked -----. I said the answer was -----. Was I right?" I've already warned students that although I would love to hear about the test (after all, exam questions do get used twice), I just can't participate in that conversation. (It's the same way with AP, although the "free response" prompts are released 48 hours after the exam.) The kids wanted to know if there would be consequences for talking about the test. I said that this year, there aren't. But I also shared that I have known AP kids whose tests have been invalidated because they were talking about the test during a break. It might be good to practice some restraint.

My kids will have the science test on the 7th and 8th days of testing. I have been telling them that the "best test was saved for last." In truth, I'm actually a little nervous about them taking that one last. How much concentration and positive attitude will they have left after 6 previous days of testing? I do have some plans in place to pump them up a bit the mornings of their science test. Nothing extravagant---just some pencils and sharpeners...and notes reminding them that they're smart and will do well. Small carrots/rewards for doing the best they can.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

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