WASL rule surprises schools
Schools are scrambling over a little-known state change to keep test scores from being printed on high school transcripts.

By Melissa Slager and Eric Stevick
Herald Writers

A little-known decision by the Legislature to let this year's high school seniors drop WASL scores from their transcripts means last-minute scurrying for schools.

The Legislature in 2004 passed a law that required schools to start printing information about students' performance on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, including their highest scores on the reading, writing and math exams.

The rule was to take effect with this year's graduating seniors. Then, as the 2006 session wrapped up in March, lawmakers backed off on most of those requirements.

Many schools are only now becoming aware of the change after the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction detailed the new rules.

This is what's coming off the list of required elements:

* Whether a student met standards by taking a WASL test or approved alternative.

* The highest scale score and level achieved in each subject area on the WASL.

* A scholar's designation for students who scored in the highest level on their first try.

Transcripts still must note whether students have "met" or "not met" the state's WASL standard, dubbed the Certificate of Academic Achievement.

Many local high school juniors and seniors retook portions of the WASL to boost their scores because of the requirement.

For now, the state recommends that school districts use the current form of the transcript recommended by the state Board of Education, which includes WASL scores. However, districts can legally choose to drop them.

"Districts need to determine how to respond to students who do not wish their final transcript to include their 2004-05 WASL performance information," the bulletin says.

Many districts say they don't know what they are going to do.

"It falls on the districts, and it's very labor-intensive, and there is absolutely no funding," said Gail Miller, assistant superintendent in the Marysville School District.

Lake Stevens School District principals, administrators and school board members are discussing what to do, said Arlene Hulten, a spokeswoman.

"It's sort of a confusing issue all the way around," she said.

The district started printing WASL scores on transcripts last year and does not plan a wholesale change, she said.

One idea could be to treat the scores like the contact information schools legally must provide military recruiters - reporting the information unless parents sign a form requesting otherwise.

Transcript forms provided by a vendor to Monroe High School likely will not include WASL scores because of the change, district spokeswoman Rosemary O'Neil said.

It may cause consternation for some high-scoring students applying to state colleges. "Just because (a score) won't be on the transcript doesn't mean you won't be asked for it," she said.

Still, O'Neil said she expects the impact to be minimal, noting that students can let colleges know about their achievement on the WASL in other ways.

Larry Davis, executive director of the State Board of Education, said he feels bad for school districts.

"It's a one-time-only transition period," he said. "It's going to be chaotic, but it's just for this once."

Along with the usual record of grades, credits and attendance history, transcripts also will identify whether students took college-level or technical preparation classes such as Running Start or advanced placement classes.

Starting with the Class of 2008, schools also must note whether students met other state graduation requirements, including a senior project and "high school and beyond" plan.

To see a sample of the current suggested transcript, which includes WASL scores, go to www.sbe.wa.gov/documents/ transcriptsamples05.pdf.

Reporter Melissa Slager: 425-339-3465 or mslager@heraldnet.com.