Blacks and Hispanics did poorly on the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning
When Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson showed her top staff members the ethnic breakdown of scores on last spring's 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning, she said many were practically in tears.
About three-quarters of the state's African American students who took the 10th-grade WASL failed one or more of the three subjects they must pass to graduate — reading, writing and math. That was true for Latino students as well. Among Native Americans, about two-thirds fell short.
So did about 70 percent of students living in poverty, of which the majority are white and Asian.
All the ethnic groups scored 4 to 6 percentage points higher than last year. But Bergeson said Wednesday that the high failure rates are "tremendously painful" to her and need much more attention from OSPI, schools and the greater community.
"I need help," she said. "I need people to think about this with me."
Statewide, about half of the sophomores (now juniors) who took the 10th-grade WASL last spring failed to pass all three sections they'll need to earn their diplomas by 2008. Some retook the test a second time in August, and they will have another chance this spring. If they fail twice, they can choose to demonstrate their skills through one of several approved alternatives.
Proponents hope that, by 2008, all students will be able to pass. Critics, however, question whether that will happen and say it's not reasonable to let any one test determine whether a student graduates. And many have strong concerns that students of color will be disproportionately represented among those who fail.
Bergeson released most of the WASL scores last week, including the statewide look at how last year's 10th-graders scored. But she talked Wednesday for the first time about the ethnic breakdowns for the class of 2008, the first class that faces the WASL as a graduation requirement.
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