Ninth-grade optional WASL testing cancelled; registrations outpaced available funding

In an effort to avoid nearly $500,000 in unfunded testing costs, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has cancelled optional Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) testing for ninth-graders, effective immediately.

The San Juan Island School District has 65 ninth-graders — 62 at Friday Harbor High School and three at Griffin Bay School. It was not immediately known how many local ninth-graders had signed up for the spring WASL exam.

Beginning in 2006, OSPI allowed ninth-graders the option of taking the high school WASL in math, reading and writing. The intent was to let students who felt they could meet standard on the high school WASL take the tests a year early. The high school WASL is designed to measure proficiency in math, reading, writing and science at the 10th-grade level.

“In the past, OSPI has been able to financially support optional testing for ninth-graders because the number was fairly small,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said.

“Now, the costs have grown significantly at the same time that an economic crisis is forcing our agency to cut optional programs and activities. This also supports moving forward with online testing because we would no longer have to print more than a million test booklets each year.”

Pre-registration for this spring’s WASL testing ended Jan. 13. After that date, OSPI determined that it would cost $477,000 in additional testing costs not provided for in the current state budget. OSPI estimates that 2009 testing in grades 3-8 and 10 will account for about 1.7 million WASL test booklets to be printed, not counting 100,000 booklets for ninth graders.

Ninth-graders who have already registered to take the math, reading and/or writing WASL tests this spring will now take the new High School Proficiency Exam next school year. More than 35,000 ninth-graders registered to take spring 2009 WASL tests, nearly double the amount from 2008.

In 2008, more than 21,000 ninth-graders took one or more of the state assessments (reading, writing and math), up from about 14,000 in 2007 and 6,300 in 2006.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by state School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.


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