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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Passing WASL easier for younger kids

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Fourth- and seventh- graders won’t have to score as high to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning this year, and 10th-graders may get a similar break next year.

Lower passing scores in reading and mathematics for the younger grades were approved unanimously Monday by the Academic Achievement and Accountability Commission.

The blue-ribbon group accepted all the recommendations made in March by committees consisting largely of educators who reviewed WASL results for the first time since the exam was instituted in 1997.

If the new minimums had been in effect last year, passing rates would have been seven to eight percentage points higher among seventh-graders in reading and math and three to four percentage points higher among fourth-graders.

The test is intended to show whether students and schools meet standards developed roughly a decade ago and is used to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The commissioners did not decide how high 10th-graders must score to qualify for graduation in 2008, when passing WASL becomes a graduation requirement.

The panel could decide this fall to set the bar at a “2” in one or more subjects. A “3” is now considered passing, and the proposed change would be subject to review from the state Legislature.

Some educators, including Washington Education Association leaders, say the WASL standards are too high, especially for minorities and students who lack English proficiency.

Teachers’ union officials said the WASL review committee should have had more representatives from ethnic minorities, those who work with students learning English and special education experts.

Given the level of state funding for public schools, added Leon Horne, president of the Tacoma Education Association, WASL requirements amount to trying to run a “Cadillac program on Ikea prices.”

Commissioner Jim Spady countered that lower standards wouldn’t help students who score poorly.

“If we do nothing, I think we’ll get more of what we’ve been getting,” Spady said.

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