Tri-City students begin WASL testing

This story was published Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

By Andrew Sirocchi, Herald staff writer

Thousands of Tri-City students sharpened No. 2 pencils and began taking Washington Assessment of Student Learning exams Monday, kicking off a three-week process that for many students -- and schools -- will be an ordeal.

With the expansion of the WASL this year and the option of taking voluntary pilot exams for third-, fifth-, sixth- and eighth-graders, some schools logged a three-fold increase in the number of tests being administered.

With the exception of ninth-graders, who are taking the Iowa standardized test, all Kennewick School District students in third- through 11th-grades are taking the WASL test. Spokesman Rich Buel said the district will have about 20,000 booklets returned at the end of the WASL, and all will need to be scanned and logged.

Steve Jones, principal at Desert Hills Middle School, said his school gave 300 WASL exams last year, and the seventh-graders who took them were offered care packages with food to keep them at their best, Jones said.

"This year, everybody is taking the WASL, and that's about 900 kids. So that's just a little bit too much to do," Jones said, referring to giving them all care packages and other stress-relief efforts. "Plus, there's so much to organize that it's difficult to do anything extra but give the test."

In Pasco, Diana Cissne, assistant principal at Robert Frost Elementary School, said students weren't the ones with frayed edges Monday.

"The kids, I think, were less stressed than we were," she said. "When they entered the school this morning, we greeted them as usual and they were like, 'We're ready, we're ready for the WASL.' "

Robert Frost, which has 90 fourth-graders and 90 fifth-graders taking exams, offered stress relief for teachers and students. The school continued a program to give students care packages, which include pencils, bookmarks, motivational stickers, granola bars and candy to keep them focused.

In addition, school administrators had breakfast and lunch served for teachers overseeing the testing.

"The pressure is coming from the state level, so just that in itself brings stress," Cissne said. She said students will again be offered snacks this year for the duration of the exams.

In Pasco, fourth-graders will be tested a total of seven days in the next two weeks. Fifth-graders have a total of three days of testing. A third scheduled week is set aside for make-up exams.

Richland school officials could not be reached for comment.

The year's official start to the WASL tests started with a protest in Olympia on Monday. Mothers Against WASL, which encourages parents to take their children out of class during the test and maintains an opposition Web site at, took to the streets of the capital. About 60 organization members, including students and parents from around the state, walked out to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction headquarters.

"We just want parents to be aware they can opt their children out, and we want teachers to know we're not fighting against them," said Juanita Doyon, the organization's director and a former candidate for state superintendent. "We're just fighting against this state test."