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WASL takers get some time back

WASL news typically isn’t good news. But here’s something that’s sure to cheer kids in elementary and middle schools: Terry Bergeson feels your pain.

Bergeson, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced last week that the WASL will be shortened significantly, starting this school year. She said it’s been in the works for a couple of years, and that it would be done without “dumbing down” the test.

How much shorter? In the past, eighth-graders have spent 12 hours on testing, over the course of several days. Now, they’ll spend eight 8 hours.

Journalists are notoriously bad at math, but that sounds like a reduction of 4 hours, one-third, 33.3 percent. That’s 240 additional WASL-free minutes – 14,400 seconds. (OK, now we’re just showing off.)

Fifth-graders will see their testing time reduced by more than 4 hours. For sixth- and seventh-graders, it’s a 3 ½-hour reduction. Third- and fourth-graders get a 2-hour break.

Sorry, sophomores, your test will not be made shorter.

It’s worth noting that Bergeson’s political opponent, Randy Dorn, says those are the “exact changes” he’s proposed.

“The WASL is too long, too complicated, too expensive and it is not diagnostic,” says Dorn’s campaign Web page.

The WASL calendar

Individual results for last spring’s WASL tests will be sent to families this month, according to Bergeson’s office. Kids who took the WASL in August will see those scores in December.

Where it all begins

For 72,000 Washington kids the end of summer 2008 means more than the start of a school year – it’s the start of their very first year in K-12 education.

The Washington Department of Early Learning has started a “kindergarten readiness” Web site with tips for parents. Find it at /kindergarten.

Of course, many of those tykes already have experience in one sort of school or another. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 56 percent of American 3- and 4-year-olds attend pre-school.

Getting there safely

Some of those kindergartners will be riding buses for the first time. Here are some safety tips for kids of any grade, offered by Durham School Services, the new contractor for busing in Spokane Public Schools:

• Leave early for the bus stop because “when you rush, you tend to forget traffic safety rules.”

• Grab the handrail when getting on the bus because tripping on the stairs can hurt more than your reputation.

• Talk and laugh quietly. Screaming tends to distract bus drivers.

• Take 10 giant steps away from the bus when you get off.

• It doesn’t matter what you saw on “Napoleon Dynamite” – don’t stick anything out the window.

Q & A session

Got a question for Spokane Schools Superintendent Nancy Stowell?

The school district will host this year’s first “Ask the Superindent” session on Tuesday.

The public is invited to submit questions any time by going to the district Web site,, and clicking on “Ask the superintendent.”

Stowell will answer questions from 8-9 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month.

Acronym of the week

To educators, R2R means Right to Read. It’s been applied to a number of reading programs over the year.

But gamers know R2R as Ready to Rumble. That’s right, a video game – the very thing criticized for pulling kids away from books.

Number of the week

9.3 billion – Pounds of apples produced in America in 2007. No word on how many wound up on teachers’ desks, but more than half were grown in Washington, the Census Bureau reports.