WASL's demise can't result in an end to education reform

The sense of urgency that made the WASL an important tool needs to be felt with the new tests.


The WASL results were released recently. Few cared. Why should they? The Washington Assessment of Student Learning, which has been abandoned by new Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, has become irrelevant.

Let's hope the zeal to improve education doesn't vanish with the relevancy of the WASL.

The WASL, while not perfect, has been the centerpiece of the education-reform movement that took off about 15 years ago.

It is about accountability. The students' progress has been measured through the WASL, which finally became a requirement for graduation last year.

Over the years, WASL scores have slowly and steadily improved. It was the same with this year's results as gains were seen at some local schools.

That doesn't matter anymore. Starting this school year, the WASL is being replaced with the High School Proficiency Exams. Students in third through eighth grades will take the Measurements of Student Progress. The new exams are said to be shorter and slightly less comprehensive but still as rigorous at the WASL.

We hope so, but we have doubts. When Dorn flushed the WASL he also flushed 15 years of progress and millions of dollars right along with it.

How can a test that was refined and honed for 15 years be replaced in such a slap-dash fashion by an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all test?

And even if the test is as rigorous as officials claim, will it be seen as important enough to motivate students, teachers and their parents to focus on improving education?

The sense of urgency to improve scores (and education) that the WASL generated already seems to be lacking with the HSPE or the MSP. (The acronyms are a tad lackluster and need some work.)

But, at this point, it's clear the WASL is gone and it's not coming back.

Education reform must move forward. That can happen if these new tests are used to hold students, teachers and parents accountable. It starts by fostering that sense of urgency that fueled the WASL and the education-reform movement.

The results of these new tests are important. And students, teachers and parents must begin to believe these test results are important.

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