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Juniors first for WASL exam ‘retakes’

Students who are dissatisfied with their score try to improve.

Attention college-bound Bain­bridge High School juniors:

If you want to improve your 10th grade WASL scores – which will be posted on your high school transcripts next year – you can retake all or part of the test this spring.

For the first time, retakes of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning will be available to juniors who did not meet the test standards in reading, writing, math and science, as well as those who passed, but who want to try and boost their scores.

Acting Bainbridge Island schools Superintendent Faith Chapel said the district will send a letter to high school juniors in January to find out who is interested in retaking the test, and will plan accordingly.

State lawmakers this year voted to allow retakes, since WASL test scores will be posted on the transcripts of all students starting in 2005.

Since scores are a component of admission into highly competitive colleges, school officials said, motivated college-bound students are likely to be interested.

The state will provide students up to four chances to take the reading, writing and math WASL.

The test will be offered free to any student who wants to take it this year.

Next year it will remain free for students who didn’t meet the standard in a specific content area, but those who met the standard and want to retake it solely to improve their scores will have to pay $10.

Results from spring 2004 showed 89 percent of Bainbridge High School 10th graders met or exceeded state standards in reading, up from 86 percent in 2003; 78 percent passed in math, up from 76 percent; 91 percent in writing, up from 86 percent, and 69 percent in science, up from the pilot test score of 58.

The sophomores beat the state average scores by about 35 points in every academic area. The gap was greatest in science, a test in which Bainbridge kids in both eighth and 10th grade earned scores double the state mean.

“We are very fortunate, because we have a very high percentage of students who meet the standard,” Chapel said. “But for schools who do not, this is an incredible challenge.”

That’s because administering the WASL is a logistical feat.

In the past, WASL tests have been administered to fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders according to a schedule set by each district.

Last year, 10th-graders spent seven days taking the WASL, and the school day was shortened for all students to accomodate it.

But this year the state Office of Public Instruction has issued a mandatory testing schedule statewide, so that every sophomore will be taking it the same dates and times, from April 19-28. Juniors who choose to retake the test will join them.

“In the past, we have always known how many people we are testing,” Chapel said. “Currently, we have 400 sophomores, but we don’t know how many juniors will be taking it.”

Until school officials have a sense of how many students will be tested, they won’t know whether the students will be tested together in one facility, or separately, or whether the schedule for students who are not taking tests will be affected, she said.

Those details will be worked out in coming months, she said.

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