Graduation requirements, WASL sample tests and answers

March 14, 2008

Here in Washington, all students have to take and pass the WASL test. It has been controversial, and I am no fan.

*Update 3/28/08* Governor approves removal of the Math WASL.

When I was a kid, it was not uncommon to have students who had strengths in math who were not great writers. I don’t know if the demographics have changed, but we have decided that in order to succeed at math, you now must be a good writer. Yup. You heard me. Everyone has to have strong skills in everything. Remember the kid who just knew the math answer? Well, now he has to explain how he knows. It is a new era of story problems. And you better have a good explanation, because a computer isn’t reading your penciled-in circles, we have hired college students to read the answers and grade them.

The state has put sample tests online with examples of good answers. I challenge parents to take the test your child is taking and see how well you do. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I couldn’t pass the 5th grade test when my kids’ elementary school offered it to parents so we could learn what it was all about. Yes, I said it. I am not smarter than a fifth grader.)

I know that there are much better forums for discussing school policies and education philosophies, but this is my soap box, and I get to stand on it when the mood strikes.

Here is the bottom line as I see it:

Our high school drop out rate is 30%. (I think that is a big number.)

We are doing a crappy job of meeting the individual needs of a diverse student population. (How can you when there are 1900 of them in one school?)

We are holding college as the ultimate ideal for all students (when clearly not every student is headed there. Also, as more kids apply to colleges, more of them are rejected because there are still only a limited number of admission slots available every year and these students are lost without a backup plan because we didn’t prepare them for a non-college career option.)

We are trying to smash all our square pegs into round holes (maybe they are the 30% who drop out… Tacoma has made great inroads in this area with its School of The Arts. It is a success story that I wish were in use more. Our children are snowflakes, not a robot army. Not every child can learn effectively with the same method of instruction.)

We have demeaned the trades as career options (and I know that I still need mechanics, plumbers and electricians, do you? Even though the graduation requirements (below) mention vocational and technical schools, the schools still seem to push college as the “best” choice.)

We need more career training for kids who are not interested in college. (Technical high schools & Apprenticeships are a good place to start. Waiting until after high school to get this training this is too late for the 30% of kids who have dropped out. We need these options available to them while they are still interested in learning.)

Here are the complete graduation requirements for students from the Office of The Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Washington State High School Graduation Requirements

In 2000, the State Board of Education approved four new statewide graduation requirements to take effect with the graduating Class of 2008. This class was chosen because it is the first class educated with the state’s learning standards since kindergarten. Together, the requirements are designed to ensure that every public high school student graduates with the following fundamental skills:

  1. Read with comprehension, write with skill, and communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of ways and settings.
  2. Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical and life sciences; civics and history; geography; the arts; and health and fitness.
  3. Think analytically, logically and creatively, and integrate experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems.
  4. Understand the importance of work and how performance, effort and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.

In addition to any local graduation requirements, all students must complete four statewide requirements:

  • High School and Beyond Plan: Students develop a plan for meeting the high school graduation requirements and for connecting successfully to their next steps in life. A student’s plan should include the classes needed in preparation for a 2- or 4-year college, vocational or technical school, certificate program or the workforce.
  • Credit Requirements: Students pass a required number of classes and earn credits in English, math, science (including one lab), social studies, health and fitness, visual or performing arts, occupational education and electives. Most school districts expect students to go above and beyond the state’s required 19 credits.
  • Complete a Culminating Project: This integrated learning project helps students understand the connection between school and the real world. Some Samples include a portfolio collection, studying topics of interest, engaging in meaningful career internships, or developing in-depth projects to name a few. Some schools have students present their findings, for example, in a research paper, through a multi-media presentation to peers or to a school/community panel. In fact, many school districts already have activities in place that will count towards the culminating project graduation requirement.
  • Earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement or Certificate of Individual Achievement: The certificates tell families, schools, businesses and colleges that an individual student has mastered a minimum set of skills by graduation. Students earn the Certificate of Academic Achievement by meeting state reading, writing and math standards on the High School Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) or on one of the Certificate of Academic Achievement Options (state-approved alternatives to the WASL). Students in special education programs who are unable to take the High School WASL can earn the Certificate of Individual Achievement by demonstrating their skills through a portfolio or a WASL designed for a different grade level.

  • Until 2013, students can still earn a diploma without one of the certificates if they:


  • Meet the state’s reading and writing standards, and

  • – Earn math credits and test annually until graduation.
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    One Response to “Graduation requirements, WASL sample tests and answers”


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