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WASL dropped, new high school exam roll-out

The battle over the highly controversial WASL test ended on June 18 as State Superintendent Randy Dorn outlined a new test to measure student achievement during a press conference in Renton. The new test, which will be shorter than the WASL, will eventually be taken on computers and should start next spring.

WASL results have improved slightly with about 93 percent passing the exam in 2009, qualifying for high school graduation. Dorn said that the real problem is that 25 percent of students never take the test because they drop out of school. Curbing dropout rates is a top priority, the superintendent said.

The high school tests will be known as the High School Proficiency Exams (HPSE). Students will still need to pass the reading and writing portions of the test as a high school graduation requirement. Starting in 2013, students will also have to pass the math portion of the test to graduate.

The new elementary and middle school tests will be called Measurements of Student Progress (MSP). These tests will be implemented strictly to gage students’ progress and give teachers and parents a better way to measure their progress.

Dorn was elected last year, defeating longtime incumbent Terry Bergeson, who helped develop the WASL. He vowed to replace the controversial testing system during the campaign.

The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year aimed at redesigning the WASL and setting Dorn’s actions into motion.

State special education receives top federal rating

Washington state’s plan to educate students in special education received a top rating from the U.S. Department of Education.

On June 1, the DOE released annual letters on how states and U.S. territories were implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for the fiscal year 2007. Washington state, along with 27 other states and two territories, received the highest rating for Part B of IDEA, which serves students aged three through 21.

Ratings were based on 20 factors, including the graduation rate, dropout rate, participation and performance on assessments, meeting evaluation timelines and ensuring that complaints and hearings are resolved within required timelines.

“Our rating is reflective of our commitment as a state to improve outcomes on behalf of students with disabilities,” said Doug Gill, OSPI’s director of special education. “While we all agree that services can always be improved, this rating is a good indication that we are moving in the right direction.”

A total of 18 states and six territories received “needs assistance” ratings, while four states and two territories received “needs intervention” ratings.

IDEA was originally passed in 1975 to give children with disabilities a free and public education. It was amended in 2004 to align with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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