About 30 percent of incoming Washington high school juniors who didn't pass one or more sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test last spring have signed up for August retakes.
That number is neither encouraging or discouraging, said Joe Willhoft, assistant superintendent for assessment and research at the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
"This is the first time we did it. It's a little bit hard to have anticipated what we might have expected," Willhoft said.
All of those who failed one or more sections of the test were eligible to sign up for the retake exams, scheduled for Aug. 7 through 10.
A total of 9,986 students registered by last Sunday's deadline for the math retake; 2,974 signed up for the reading test, and 3,344 for the writing retake, according to Kim Schmanke, a spokesperson for the state education office. A small number of these students are incoming juniors who did not take the WASL last spring, but as members of the class of 2008 they are obligated to pass the WASL or an approved alternative in order to graduate from high school. Students have as many as five chances to pass the test.
Testing centers across the state will also accommodate some walk-ins. "But we don't plan on having a thousand (test booklets) at each site," Schmanke said.
She added, however, that testing officials would do whatever they could to accommodate students who want to take the test, including shuttling booklets from one site to another if needed.
This past spring, statewide, 85.6 percent of the students who took the WASL passed the reading test, while 14.4 percent failed. In writing, 83.6 percent met or exceeded the standard, while 16.4 percent failed. And 53.9 percent passed the math test, while 46.1 percent failed.
Since 70,255 students took the math exam, for example, more than 32,000 students could have chosen to do a retake this August.
Willhoft said this whole experience, from test-taking to summer school and retakes, is a chance for the education department to gather a lot of data and improve.
"As we learn from this experience and go through the whole process, I'm sure we'll be able to improve upon the way in which we provide services and opportunities for youngsters," he said.
Willhoft said one of the most common questions parents and children have been asking the department and their local school districts is: Should they take the August test.
"We've never done this before so it's a little bit hard to say," he said.
But next year, when students in the class of 2009 ask that question, the department should be able to give detailed answers, such as: Last year, most of the students who came close to meeting the standard on their math WASL, and went to summer school, passed on their first retake.
"All of the staff in our assessment office and elsewhere within the agency continue to do whatever we can to help students and their parents through this situation," Willhoft said, adding that education staffers understand how frustrating the whole process can be for Washington families.
He said the agency is also working on developing standards for students to follow for alternative assessments. Staffers have already developed specific curricula to help students who came close to meeting the standard on any section of the WASL and materials for those who need even more help will be sent to school districts in the near future.
— The Associated Press