Benefits for students taking the WASL

(from Evergreen School District, Vancouver, WA)

Responses prepare by Parent Empowerment Network


1. The WASL is the only standardized test given in the state that assesses the Essential Academic Learning Requirements, including higher-level thinking, communication, reasoning, problem solving, and application of knowledge and skills in new situations. In other words, students can show what they know and can do in formats that allow them to construct their own responses (rather than just choosing the best option from pre-determined choices).


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

Teachers have far better tools at their disposal to measure the learning of the children in their care. In fact, the state of Nebraska has discovered that any standardized test is as good as another at measuring their state standards. In general, state standards across the nation are similar to ours. Measuring the abilities of a student is a complex process that should never be reduced to one test!


2. Teachers and staff can gain information about students' progress toward meeting standards (benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do) in the core academic areas of reading, writing, math, and science, and can plan instruction accordingly.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL is not a diagnostic assessment, nor is it a test of basic skills. It was not designed to measure the individual achievement of students and should never be used to determine instruction. According to OSPI’s own technical report on WASL, “Scores from one test given on a single occasion should never be used to make important decisions about students' placement, the type of instruction they receive, or retention in a given grade level in school.”


3. Students in the class of 2008 and beyond are able to practice taking the WASL and get feedback on their performance in grades 3 - 8 before taking the High School WASL as a graduation requirement.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL is an invalid assessment for many students. The research of Dr. Donald Orlich has shown that many questions on the WASL measure a formal thinking level that is developmentally inappropriate for students in the grade tested. State assessment director Joe Willhoft co-authored a report in 2003, which concluded that the 7th grade math WASL is approximately 2 years above grade level and that the 10th grade math WASL is approximately 3 years above grade level.


4. Each student's WASL performance provides a profile of the student's strengths and weak areas in each subject area tested.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL was developed as a measure of the education system. It tells very little about the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student.


5. Because the WASL has been shown to be an excellent predictor of success in the freshman year in college, students can use their WASL performance as indicative of areas they might want to strengthen prior to graduation.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL has not improved the math skills of students who attend college. In fact, after 13 years of WASL-based school reform, our colleges are placing as many or more students as ever in remedial math courses.


6. In the Evergreen Public Schools, students in Grade 10 can earn up to one half credit towards graduation for meeting the standard on the WASL subtests.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

This is an inappropriate use of WASL and deprives students of valuable instruction time.


7. Because the WASL assesses students' progress toward meeting standards, information about the performance of groups of students helps district staff make decisions about the effectiveness of different instructional programs.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL is cheating our children out of a well-rounded education. School programming should not be predicated on WASL scores or WASL goals. School programming should respond to the needs and desires of students, parents and community.




Consequences When Students do not take the WASL


1. Teachers and staff lack full information about the instructional needs of these students, which could lead to some students not receiving all the instructional support they might need to be successful later in school.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

Many diagnostic tools exist. WASL is not a diagnostic tool. Teachers do not see the test or the student’s answers. The test is not scored by professional teachers. Professional teachers who know the student are in the best position to diagnose the instructional needs of students. No state-level test can do this!


2. When a student has not taken the WASL, schools lack the necessary information to develop a Student Learning Plan for that student.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

WASL is not a diagnostic test. Student Learning Plans were mandated by the legislature with no regard for the appropriate use of WASL scores. OSPI’s own technical report on WASL states: “When making decisions about individuals, multiple sources of information should be used and multiple individuals who are familiar with the student's progress and achievement (including parents, teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, specialist teachers, and possibly even the students themselves) should be brought together to make such decisions collaboratively."


3. While the student's individual record simply indicated "Not Tested," because the number of students meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet the standards is based upon enrollment, the percentages for the schools and districts are impacted by refusals. This could reflect poorly on the school and/or district, since businesses and real estate agents use test scores as one indicator of school successes.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

 “Real Estate Agent here……If the schools are good then yes it is a selling point, but I have never had a client ask “what were the WASL scores for the district?” Now I have had clients ask about sports programs, music programs, if they have computers, teacher to student ratio, did the last school bond pass, etc.”

Jona Christoe
Real Estate Agent
John L Scott Lake
Tapps Office


4. Students in the class of 2008 and beyond who do not take the WASL prior to Grade 10 will not have had the opportunity to practice and get feedback before taking the test as a graduation requirement.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

The WASL as a graduation requirement violates good assessment practice. Statements against this practice can be found on the websites of every reputable education association in the United States, including the National PTA.


5. Students in the class of 2008 and later who do not take the High School WASL will not receive a high school diploma.


Parent Empowerment Network Response:

The legislature is considering alternatives to the WASL graduation requirement. Parent Empowerment Network is seeking legal counsel in order to bring a lawsuit in the event that the state does not provide reasonable alternatives to the WASL.

The state is responsible for holding districts accountable. Our schools are accredited; our teachers are certified; local school boards are the only official bodies that have the right to determine curriculum and assessment practice for students. Private schools are not required to administer the WASL. Parents of homeschooled students are not required to administer the WASL.