New standardized test replaces WASL

Island students, along with youth across the state, took the new High School Proficiency (HSPE) test for the first time this week. The HSPE, the reading exam portion of which was held on March 16, now serves as the state’s assessment for graduation, replacing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).

State Superintendent Randy Dorn initiated the idea. One of his top priorities when taking office in January 2009 was to replace the WASL. This has now been accomplished with the HSPE and another test for grades 3-8, the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) exam, will begin in May.

“I delivered on my promise to make changes to our state test,” Dorn said.

Both the HSPE and the MSP, consisting of multiple choice and short-answer questions, will be shorter than the WASL, taking only one session to administer as opposed to two. The writing exam, which continues to include two essay questions, will take two sessions to administer.

Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano said that district teachers and administrators are looking forward to the shorter tests.

“I’m happy the tests are shorter to provide more instruction time between teachers and students. That’s really where our priority is,” Plano said.

Dorn echoed this statement. “By shortening the tests, it leaves more time for classroom instruction and it helps alleviate the common complaint of testing fatigue,” Dorn said. “Our academic standards have not changed, so the exams are still as rigorous as ever. But we feel this is a more common sense approach to testing our students.”

Plano added that, because district administrators feel that “standardized tests don’t necessarily predict one’s success in life,” the WASL, HSPE and MSP are not primary academic concerns.

“We lead the state on standardized tests, so large-scale tests are not an area of big focus for us,” he said.

Although the HSPE and MSP are new, the state assessment graduation requirements have not changed. For example, students who did not pass the reading WASL would need to take the reading HSPE as a graduation requirement. A student who has previously passed all the state exams does not need to take the SPE.

Another change with the HSPE and MSP is that for the first time, some students will be able to take their tests online using computerized formats.

For more information on changes to the state exams, visit or the MISD Web site,

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