North End students show WASL progress

POULSBO — When the class of 2008 walks across the stage as graduates next June, it will be making history.

The students will be part of the first class required to pass the reading and writing portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam. Originally, the class of 2008 was going to be required to pass the math portion of the WASL, but Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill in May delaying the mandate until 2013.

The North Kitsap School District class of 2008 originally had 81.9 percent of its students meet standard in the reading portion of the WASL as sophomores, while 81.1 percent met standard in the writing portion as sophomores. At the conclusion of the 2006-07 school year, members of the class of 2008 significantly improved their scores in both categories during their junior year in both reading and writing with 89.2 percent and 89.1 percent meeting standard, respectively.

NKSD WASL coordinator Wally Lis was pleased with the improvements made by the class of 2008 during its 11th grade year.

“I think it shows that our students are taking the exam seriously,” he said. “As a class, they’re getting closer to where they need to be. Our goal is for them to graduate from high school with great reading and writing skills. The increases in students meeting standards in the reading and writing areas shows the skill building and work in the classroom is paying off.”

While Lis is impressed with the strides made by students, the aspiration is to have 100 percent of district’s students pass the reading and writing portions of the test. Currently, almost 11 percent of this year’s seniors have yet to pass the reading and writing portions of the WASL.

If this continues, of the 567 seniors — 62 won’t graduate.

“We’ve got to get the rest of students that make up that 10 percent to standard. We want to give these kids the best opportunity to be productive in the community,” he said. “It’s extremely important.”

If students fail to meet standard in the WASL, the NKSD offers skill building specific classes focusing on students’ areas of weakness.

“As a district we’ll continue to offer the skill building specific classes to meet the students needs,” Lis said. “Students not passing (reading and writing) portions of the WASL will be enrolled in courses that specifically focus on the students’ needs in particular areas. These kind of literacy classes will target the areas in which students are struggling.”

Typically, these courses will give them a double dose of English class.

“They will double up a language arts class. They will take one less elective and be essentially taking two English classes at the same time,” Lis said. “The skills class will focus on their needs in the subject area.”

Students are allowed to take each portion of the WASL a total of five times during their high school careers.

If they continue to fail the reading and writing portions, they can still attain their diplomas and meet WASL based standards.

“If a student has test anxiety or struggles with the test format and can’t seem to pass the exam, they will have an opportunity to present a portfolio where they demonstrate their work,” Lis said. “Students will bring their portfolio and it will be reviewed by a committee of teachers within the district. If their performance grades out, they will receive their diploma.”

Lis said members of the NKSD staff in charge of grading portfolios received top-of-the-line training from the state of Washington.

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