WASL results? State superintendent more focused on dropout rates

Preliminary results for the WASL are in, but new state Superintendent Randy Dorn is focusing more on high-school dropout rates.

Statewide, nearly 93 percent of the class of 2009 passed the reading and writing portions, but Dorn is concerned about how many students failed the test or never took it because they had already dropped out of school.

Dorn reiterated his campaign promise to replace the Washington Assessment of Student Learning with a shorter test at a press conference Thursday, June 18, when he released the early results.

Washington’s official drop-out rate is 21 percent, but Dorn said he thinks as many as one in four students are dropping out of school before graduation.

Since the class of 2009 started school in 2005, the annual dropout rate has been around 5.5 percent. The state’s on-time graduation rate haw averaged about 72 percent between 2004 and 2008, with an extended graduation rate of nearly 77 percent during the same five-year period.

Snoqualmie Valley School District’s dropout rate has averaged around 1.5 percent from 2005 to 2008. Its on-time graduation rates have improved from 79 percent in 2004 to 87 percent in 2008. Extended graduation rates improved from just under 87 percent to almost 93 percent during the same time.

“We need to start much earlier than high school to address the dropout issue,” Dorn said.

He has proposed more focus on early learning (prior to kindergarten), an early warning dropout system and expanding career and technical education opportunities to keep at-risk students engaged. He plans to give a more detailed plan this fall.

The WASL is not indicative of graduation rates, according to Dorn.

Separating student results by ethnicity reveals large gaps between WASL performance and graduation rates. American Indians, Pacific Islanders, African-Americans and Hispanics all received passing rates of 85 percent or higher for students who stayed in high school all four years. However, each group had an on-time graduation rate of 60 percent or lower. Less than 48 percent of American Indian students graduated on time.

The WASL will be scrapped next year for the High School Proficiency Exam, Dorn said. Students in grades three through eight will take the Measurements of Student Progress. Dorn wants both tests to be taken online by 2013.

The class of 2011 — which took the test this spring as 10th graders — passed the reading portion by 78 percent and the writing portion by almost 83 percent. However, only 45 percent passed the math portion.

Passing the math portion is not required for graduation, but students failing it, must take two credits of math after 10th grade. Over 73 percent of the class of 2009 passed the math section.

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