WASL reading, writing delay argued

The chair of the Senate Education Committee is in a standoff with Gov. Chris Gregoire over the possibility of delaying the reading and writing sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning as a high school graduation requirement.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, says she has the support of a majority of her Senate colleagues to delay all three sections of the WASL.

As state law stands today, students in the class of 2008 would be the first group required to pass the math, writing and reading sections of the exam in order to graduate.

Lawmakers already have voted to delay the math requirement and are negotiating the details of that bill. McAulliffe wants to add a delay of the reading and writing requirements.

"If I'm going to delay something, why wouldn't I delay it all?" McAuliffe said Tuesday. "Why would I just delay math and not listen to the voices for those children who struggle with reading and writing and have not had the opportunity or the resources to meet the standards?"

McAuliffe said 41 school superintendents, primarily in districts with high numbers of low-income children and those who speak English as a second language, have asked her for the reading and writing delay.

Gregoire said this past weekend she would veto any bill that delayed the reading and writing requirement.

Her office confirmed Tuesday that still is her position. She has supported a math delay.

Gregoire said statistics show that most children, including those in poverty, have been successful on the reading and writing sections, but not on the math section.

"Good progress is being made," she said. "I grew up in humble beginnings ... Kids who begin their lives in humble beginnings can meet the standard and go out and be a success. I will not give up on them."

She added that most of the organizations in the state made up of superintendents and principals have not supported a reading and writing delay.

"This is a relatively small number of superintendents that have come forward," Gregoire said of the 41 pressuring McAuliffe.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 10,831 of this year's high school juniors who have taken the test did not pass the reading portion, 11,718 haven't passed writing and 32,855 haven't passed math. The class includes 82,992 students, but not all students have taken all three sections of the test. Senate Bill 6023

Measure changes requirements for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.