Politics & Government

State to release results of new student tests today

Move over, WASL. The two new kids on the block are the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress) and the HSPE (High School Proficiency Exam).

Results for both sets of tests for Washington students, which were administered for the first time last spring, will be released today. Statewide test results will be available, as well as scores by school district and by individual school.

This year’s rollout is slightly later than it’s been in recent years. And that means parents won’t receive reports on how their kids did on the tests until roughly mid-September.

Parents will receive a report mailed to their home. The individual student reports have a new look this year as well, with more graphical representations showing how a student fared.

“We redesigned it based on feedback from parents and schools,” said Chris Barron, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

One reason for the reporting delay, say state education officials, is because of new math standards for elementary students. The state Board of Education didn’t approve the test’s passing scores for those new standards until Aug. 10, Barron said.

The WASL, or Washington Assessment of Student Learning, which debuted in 1997, was replaced last year by the MSP for students in grades three through eight, and the HSPE for students in grade 10. Both new tests are shorter, with fewer long, essay-type answers required.

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will release the first MSP results today, along with the first detailed HSPE test scores.

In addition, the state will report on adequate yearly progress improvement lists for schools and districts, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Even though the tests have changed, the way in which results will be reported is similar. Scores for each school and district, as well as for the state itself, are reported as the percentage of students meeting state standards.

The test for students in grades three through five is more rigorous than in the past, Barron said. The goal is to better prepare elementary students for the higher-level math they’ll face in middle school and high school.

Based on preliminary HSPE math results released earlier this year, the elementary students will need the extra rigor.

Only 43 percent of Washington 10th-graders passed the math exam, according to statewide scores released in June. And that problem could increase next spring when Washington again changes how it tests high school students in math.

The state will move to end-of-course exams for algebra and geometry as a replacement for the general math exams given in years past. Some educators say the new math tests could prove more challenging for students.

State officials have also heard complaints from school districts about the MSP reading test. While many teachers welcomed the fact that the test was designed to last only one day instead of the two used by the old WASL, some say the new test was too much for students to complete in a day. They worry that students’ test exhaustion could mean lower reading scores this year.

“We heard the feedback from the field that the test is probably too long for a one-session test,” Barron said.

And some educators are simply worried that state testing has become a moving target that’s difficult for them to hit.

“I’ve been a staunch supporter of accountability and testing,” said University Place School District Superintendent Patti Banks. But as test changes keep coming every year, the state is in danger of creating what she calls a “testing Frankenstein.”

Instead of insisting that Washington invent its own test, she favors “a strong basic skills test that has been nationally validated.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@thenewstribune.com