Until a recent parent-teacher conference, Marc Walker didn't even know his third-grade son would soon be taking the WASL exam. But his son, Kergan, certainly knew the state-mandated standardized test was on its way. "He shook his head vigorously and said, 'Yeah, Dad, I'm really nervous about it,' " says
Elementary school counselors say they hear from kids every day who are worked up over the WASL. In the days before next Monday's test, counselors are spending many hours calming, coaching and cheering-on these young test takers.
"The big question is, 'What if I don't pass?' " says Melissa Alfstad, a counselor at
Fortunately for the third-graders - and even fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders - the answer to that question is "noothing." It's only the 10th-graders who must pass the WASL to graduate from high school.
That's just what
"I told him it's not going to affect whether you go to another grade," he says. "I told him it's a measurement tool."
Becky Peters, a counselor at
"Our elected officials want to know how the kids are learning and how the teachers are teaching," Peters says she tells them.
At Finch, Alfstad is organizing an after-school yoga club for third- through sixth-graders, designed to help them learn self-soothing techniques to better cope with stress.
"This whole issue of anxiety is huge," she says.
She encourages students to envision a "safe place" in which they're taking the test and acing it. And she tells them to consider picking out a personal theme song, something to mentally "listen" to when negative thoughts intrude. (Think James Brown's "I Feel Good.")
"It's more of an optimistic way of thinking," she says.
Val Kjack, a counselor at Pratt and
"We bought these at the 'smart pencil store,' " she tells the kids.
"We might as well have fun; we have to do it."
Counselors encourage parents to help their kids stick to their regular routines around test time, says Katy Owsley, a
"You want to make it as natural and normal as possible," Owsley says.
Try to help children go to bed at their usual time. Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast. Carve out some time in the day for fun and exercise.
Explain why they're taking the WASL and also let them know that it's likely they won't know all of the answers.
"And that's OK," Owsley says.
But he understands fear over failing such a big test.
"That would be pretty huge," he says.
No matter what parents or counselors do, it's likely there will still be some stress surrounding the WASL, especially for this new group of test takers. But even counselors say that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"We talk about 'less stress,' " Peters says. "We don't talk about 'no stress.' "
Says Alfstad: "There is a productive level of stress."
To the editor;
Have things changed in our WASLy
world! When school counselors like Melissa Alfstad
(Worries about WASL,
should be, as the banner at my children's elementary used to bravely tout,
If educators won't say it because their jobs are somehow on the line, it is time for parents to say enough is enough. These are our children and our schools. The WASL gods can't have them! For more information see www.mothersagainstwasl.org .
Juanita Doyon, Director
Parent Empowerment Network
Last weekend I was at a yard sale with a button on my purse.
The button was a WASL button with a red slash through it. Around the outside edge it says "Just Opt Out, Let Teachers Teach, Stop The Waste".
The teacher in the group says, I like your button, and it opened a conversation with these ladies about the test. When one of the parents expressed concern about her daughter talking the 7th grade test I responded, "Just opt her out". The teacher in the group got very upset and agitated and told me I couldn't be telling people that. She said that opting out hurts the schools scores and therefore hurts her job and puts her at risk.
I responded to her, that I was sorry the state has made it so difficult for everyone but my first concern must be the children, so should hers.
Teachers it's time to speak out, stop worrying about the scores and start worrying about the children and your profession, not just your job. Look at what WASL is doing to your profession.
Mothers Against WASL