Education

Boys face greater risk of not graduating because of WASL

EVERETT - Boys in Washington's class of 2008 are at somewhat greater risk of not graduating than girls, according to a newspaper's analysis of assessment test scores from last spring.

Boys made up 63 percent of 10th-graders who failed the reading, writing and math sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. The class of 2008 is the first in which students must pass all subjects to graduate, though lawmakers are considering easing those requirements.

The Herald newspaper of Everett analyzed the scores of 71,000 students - about 36,000 boys and 35,000 girls. More than 5,000 boys failed all three sections, compared with 3,000 girls.

Still, the analysis showed the gap to be narrowing.

In 2005, 60 percent of boys failed at least one of the three tests, compared with 54 percent of girls. In 2006, 51 percent of both boys and girls failed at least one test.

Writing gap

The starkest gap remains in writing, where 3,600 more boys than girls failed the test. Math troubles the boys and girls about the same.

The boy-girl disparity is like any other achievement gap, said Ken Collins, principal at Lake Stevens High School.

"It's something we need to attack," he said.

Educators attribute the improvement boys did make to the graduation requirement.

"It shows when boys have to write, they can write," said Nancy Katims, director of assessment and research for the Edmonds School District. "They can elaborate and give detail. They clearly know what they are supposed to do when push comes to shove."

Granite Falls High School junior Cameron Atworth spent two hours after school last Tuesday - the warmest day of the winter to that point - in a preparation class for students retaking the writing WASL this week.

If it wasn't a graduation requirement, Atworth said, he wouldn't get the extra help and probably wouldn't try very hard on the exam. In middle school, he didn't give his best effort.

"I didn't care about it until it started to count," he said.

Classmate Chase Waldo also signed up for the after-school prep class, foregoing time riding motorcycles with his brother to get WASL tips and extra writing practice.

"I just want to graduate," he said.

Legislative decisions

At the same time, given the high numbers of boys and girls still at risk of not graduating in 2008, lawmakers are considering delaying or easing the graduation requirements.

A House committee has approved a bill that would allow students who didn't pass the WASL to graduate. A Senate committee has approved a bill that would delay the math WASL graduation requirement for two years and establish many more alternatives for passing the reading and writing sections of the test. Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she supports only a math and science delay.

Students in third through eighth grades, as well as in high school, take the WASL reading and math tests. Some grades also test in writing and science.

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