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State superintendent eliminates WASL option for ninth-grade students

Ninth-grade students will no longer have the option of taking the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning beginning in 2009, the state Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction announced Thursday.

WASL requirements will not change for grades third-eighth or 10th this spring.

According to an OSPI press release, the decision to end the ninth-grade WASL option was a cost saving measure made in response to a jump in ninth-grade applicants for the spring WASL. OSPI estimates that ending the optional program will save the department $477,000 in costs not provided for in the current state budget.

Beginning in 2006, ninth-grade students had the option of taking the 10th-grade WASL a year early. Pre-registration for the 2009 spring WASL ended Jan. 13. According to OSPI more than 35,000 ninth-graders registered to take the 2009 spring WASL, up from 21,000 in 2008 and 6,300 in 2006.

"In the past, OSPI has been able to financially support optional testing for ninth graders because the number was fairly small," state Supt. Randy Dorn said in the release. "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."

Bainbridge High School Principal Brent Peterson said the change will not have a large impact BHS students.

Fewer than 20 Bainbridge ninth-grade students registered for the 10th-grade WASL in 2008. Peterson said it is unknown how many Bainbridge ninth-grade students had registered this year because students send applications directly to OSPI.

Ninth-grade students who registered for the spring WASL this year will instead take a new new High School Proficiency Exam in the next school year.

OSPI has been considering wholesale revisions to the WASL.

Peterson said he hopes parents and students won't be confused by the discussion surrounding the state's evaluation system and will remain focused on the WASL this spring.

"We want to make sure that with whichever test is being used – and this year it's the WASL – kids are doing the best they can," Peterson said.

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