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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Plan would pit WASL against state basketball

High school athletic directors are concerned about the possibility that Washington’s statewide student assessments might be rescheduled right in the middle of state basketball tournaments.

Under a law passed last year, the state Legislature asked the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for a feasibility study on how to return the results from the Washington Assessment of Student Learning back to the schools before the end of the school year.

Currently, school districts don’t get to see the test results until late July, and results aren’t released to the public until late August or early September.

“One possible method would be to move some or part of the present (testing) window to an earlier date,” said Greg Hall, director of assessment at OSPI in Olympia. “We have said maybe early March. But that was as specific as we got because we haven’t really checked with a lot of our stakeholders,” including athletic directors.

When he learned that the suggested early March dates would be at the same time as state high school basketball tournaments, Hall said simply, “Ouch.”

State basketball tournaments have been scheduled for the first two weeks in March for more than 50 years, said Mike Colbrese, director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

“Moving the test to those dates would be a big problem for us,” Colbrese said. “It’s shortsighted to think that would even work.”

State officials emphasized that moving the testing dates to March is only a suggested course of action, and that nothing is set in stone. If there was a change, it probably wouldn’t occur until the 2007-08 school year.

The WASL, given to students in grades four, seven and 10 each spring, is the state’s answer to federal No Child Left Behind law. The law set the goal of having every child proficient in reading and math by 2014.

“Everything is totally preliminary, and we’re just exploring a lot of options,” said Shirley Skidmore, communications director for OSPI.

While the high school WASL is given only to the 10th-grade students, Colbrese said that if a school’s team earns a spot in a state tournament, it’s not just the athletes who are affected.

“You’ve got the bands, and the cheerleaders,” he said.

In the Greater Spokane League, there are 56 sophomores on the boys and girls varsity teams this year.

For the smaller schools in the B classification, it’s even more of a concern. The four-day State B basketball tournament has been held in Spokane the first week in March since 1958.

“When we go to state, the whole town goes to Spokane. It’s a huge event,” said Nancy Giddings, the athletic director at Republic High School in Ferry County. “When we schedule our league schedule, we take care of moving around the WASL testing days, and we work very carefully to make sure that we don’t have any conflicts.”

Colbrese said he has been asked by OSPI to write a letter detailing the potential conflicts of holding WASL testing during the state tournaments. He will also be asked to testify in front of a state legislative committee.

Colbrese also put the word out at the WIAA athletic directors conference, called the Winter Coalition, held Monday on the West Side.

“State basketball is a time when a lot of students are going to be out of school,” said Wayne McKnight, the athletic director for West Valley High School.

McKnight, who represented the Greater Spokane League at the Winter Coalition, reported the possible date conflict to the West Valley school board Wednesday.

“It could cause some real problems,” McKnight said.

But not everyone feels that way.

“Testing is directly related to education and that’s our main job,” said Bob Crabb, assistant principal at Ferris High School in Spokane. “We can’t have athletics dictating that.”

The state tests are required, and students must take them. Starting with the class of 2008, students have to pass the 10th grade WASL in order to earn a high school diploma.

“Students are required by state mandates to participate in those assessments,” said Bill Ash, assessment coordinator for the Central Valley School District. “However, they are not required by state mandates to play basketball.”

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