From an earlier version of the anxiety-ridden test the class of 2008 will have to pass to get a high school diploma:

Kent is using

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Here We Come A-WASLing

From an earlier version of the anxiety-ridden test the class of 2008 will have to pass to get a high school diploma:

Kent is using the scale to compare the weight of various solids.

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How many spheres will balance one cube?

A. 2

B. 3

C. 4

D. 5

Remember, you're being timed.

The Washington Assessment of Student Learning, WASL, was born out of the 1993 Education Reform Law, but this will be the first time it actually impacts graduation.

Garfield senior Vernoica Armenglo, 17, has passed everything but the math. Armenglo?s family is from Mexico and speaks Spanish at home. She didn?t start learning English until she got to school and still struggles with the words needed to translate math concepts. My high school Spanish class certainly didn?t included terms like hypotenuse. She says it?s frustrating for bilingual students doing well in other classes to come up against a test that includes no assistance for the language barrier. Passing the math isn't required for graduation, but failing it does require taking additional math credits and retaking the test in order to get a diploma.

Armenglo joined a handful of other parents and students at Mount Zion Baptist Church last night to discuss concerns about the upcoming test. Options for students who don?t pass were discussed as well as the needs of bilingual students, which it turns out are pretty much being disregarded.

Seattle Public Schools Assessment Coordinator Nancy Steers told concerned parents that nothing can be done about the language barrier now, though she and others are pushing the legislature to take it into account as adjustments are made to the WASL requirement. The most important thing to do now, she says, is to keep students relaxed, and she turned to the catchall metaphor for absolutely everything, Sept. 11. ?I want you to think about it,? she told the audience, then solicited their first thoughts. Terror and fear were mentioned.

Steers says that kind of anxiety is what makes the test harder for students. ?We have to change the emotional messages we take into the WASL.? Thought I?m not sure reminding students of terrorist attacks as part of their prep is the best way to calm nerves.

Steers point was that it?s not the end of the world if you don't pass, but most students aren?t willing to hang around, attempting to pass the WASL until they turn 21 and the public school system kicks them out. Glenn Jones, 17, also a senior at Garfield, already passed the test, but says he can?t imagine sticking around if he didn?t. ?That?s crazy.?

And the answer to the question at the top: B. If you missed it, don't worry. Less than 42 percent of high schoolers faced with that question on the 2004 WASL got it right.

 
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