Ask East Valley High School freshman Nikki Bernard what she needs to do to be successful in high school, and she will tell you things like “trying my best, doing my homework, and getting good grades.”
But she also is well aware of the fact that as a member of the graduating class of 2008 she must pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in order to receive a high school diploma.
The WASL is Washington’s answer to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which set the goal of having every child proficient in reading and math by 2014.
“I think they put too much pressure on us,” Bernard said. “It’s a lot to handle.”
On Tuesday, junior and senior students in East Valley’s Link Crew – a leadership club that helps mentor younger students – banded together and taught Bernard and all of the freshmen at East Valley just what they will need to graduate in four years.
The lessons are part of a statewide project called Student 2 Student: Change Your World.
The project consists of a video and curriculum – both developed with help from a recent Central Valley graduate – explaining state high school graduation requirements and laws. It is part of a Washington State Student Engagement Initiative, funded by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in partnership with the Washington Association of Student Councils.
Students all over the state received training on the project earlier this year, and are now in the process of bringing it back to their home schools. The project is entirely student led.
“The requirements are so different for our freshmen now,” said Corey Christianson, an East Valley senior and member of the Link Crew. “I passed the WASL, but it wasn’t required then. I think because it is required now, these freshmen are more focused than a lot of us were.”
The WASL is given each spring to students in grades four, seven, and 10 – and soon to be grades three and eight.
In addition to passing the WASL, freshmen students at East Valley need 23 credits in the core subjects, like math and science, to graduate, plus they are the first to need a senior culminating project.
All of these things add up to what the state calls a Certificate of Academic Achievement, which is required for a diploma.
The freshmen students at East Valley said they liked hearing from their older peers about the WASL and other requirements.
“It makes me think, if they can do it, I can do it,” said Eric Wallman, 15. “It takes a little pressure off.”
As part of the Student 2 Student project curriculum, East Valley Link Crew members also urged the freshmen to think beyond high school and what they want to be when they grow up.
“I think kids respond better to people their own age, instead of an adult lecturing them,” said Ryan Orwick, an East Valley senior who taught one of Tuesday’s sessions.
Orwick’s sister is a freshman at East Valley.
“I knew there were all these new requirements, and I was real concerned,” Orwick said. “So I wanted to make sure she did well, and also her classmates.”
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