County's schools will try online standardized tests

Education: WASL exam replaced this year

February 4, 2010 

OLYMPIA - Ten Thurston County schools will participate in the first step of the rollout of statewide electronic standardized testing.

Some sixth- through eighth-graders in Griffin, North Thurston, Olympia, Rochester, Tenino, Tumwater and Yelm will take the Measures of Student Progress as the state rolls out the online version of the standardized test.

Their schools are among 364 statewide that will be the first to take the tests online. The tests will be given in paper and pencil for all the other students who must take the test.

Nearly 27 percent of schools statewide with sixth through eighth grades registered to offer the online testing, and the state has a goal of having all sixth- through eighth-grade reading, writing and math tests online by 2012, said Chris Barron, a spokesman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Some districts have begun preparing students and teachers for the new format by going through online tutorials and looking at sample tests.

“It’s just another way to help your students be prepared for testing,” said Linda Metzger, Tumwater district assessment coordinator. In Tumwater, sixth-graders at Black Lake and Littlerock elementary schools will take part in the online exam.

“When you’re doing a high-stakes assessment for kids, they need to understand the format,” Metzger said.

Shannon Ritter, the dean of students at Aspire Middle School in Lacey, said participating right away will give the school a chance to learn the logistics of running a computer test. The school already plans to borrow some computers from the district’s Bower Learning Center to make sure it has enough to allow students to take the test.

“We can figure what works for us, where is it that we need to take changes. And we can have those pieces in place next time,” Ritter said.

The Washington Assessment of Student Learning is being replaced this year. Most students throughout the state will take the new test on paper and pencil – the Measures of Student Progress in the third through eighth grades and the High School Proficiency Exam for 10th-graders.

Making the state standardized tests shorter and more efficient was one of the key issues for Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, who was elected in 2008.

The new tests eliminate long-answer items in favor of multiple choice, completion items and short-answer items. The testing time also has been shortened to single sessions in some subject areas. The academic skills that are being tested remain the same, educators say.

The paper-and-pencil Measures of Student Progress exams will be given May 12-28. The computer version may be given between May 3 and June 4, which allows schools to manage the use of their computer labs, Barron said in a news release.

A tutorial on the reading test was put online in January, and one for math is expected to be released next month.

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445

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