Snoqualmie Valley students try out new standardized tests

Taking an online pretest, Kaleigh Tucker, a sixth grade student at Chief Kanim Middle School, gets ready for the Measurements of Student Progress, a test that replaces the Washington Assessment of Student Learning this year. - Allison Espiritu/Snoqualmie Valley Record
Taking an online pretest, Kaleigh Tucker, a sixth grade student at Chief Kanim Middle School, gets ready for the Measurements of Student Progress, a test that replaces the Washington Assessment of Student Learning this year.
— image credit: Allison Espiritu/Snoqualmie Valley Record

Test time is here, but for the first time in more than a decade, Valley students will not be sharpening their pencils for the challenging Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

Instead, students in basic and secondary schools are taking two new tests meant to be more efficient and high-tech.

High school students will begin taking the High School Proficiency Exam, or HSPE, this month, while grades three through eight will take the Measurements of Student Progress, or MPS, beginning in May.

Changes to the WASL began a few years ago, when educators questioned whether it was measuring the right variables. When Randy Dorn ran to replace Terry Bergeson as state schools superintendent, one of his campaign platforms took aim at the WASL.

“In reality, we really haven’t done away with it,” said Don McConkey, assistant superintendent for Snoqualmie Valley School District. “We just changed the name and made modifications to streamline the tests.”

Dorn’s office explored the WASL’s cost efficiency and addressed concerns about the amount of instructional time that the exam took up. Ultimately, the state chose to change the WASL to a shorter test that can eventually be administered online.

Over the next few years, the MSP will become shorter than the WASL. Students in grades six through eight will begin online testing this spring, with high school students following in the spring of 2011.

Valley middle schoolers may take the reading and math portions of the test online this year.

“It’ll be a slow roll out,” McConkey said. “They realize this will take a few years for everybody to adopt it.

“The fact that it will move online will streamline the process a great deal, and save on additional costs to print out booklets and testing materials,” McConkey added.

Student prep

Prepping students before the MSP is administered in May, sixth grade math and science teacher Chris Blake gave students at Chief Kanim Middle School a preview of what to expect when test time arrives.

Using an online program similar to the MSP, his students logged in and took pre-tests on topics such as adding, comparing and ordering fractions and multiplying decimals.

“They’ll take a pre-test of 10 questions, and they have notebooks to do the work,” Blake said. “If they get 80 percent or better, they’ll pass and move on to the next section. If it’s 70 percent or less, they’ll get a tutorial, go back and retake the test.”

Giving students a preview helps them learn the pace and get extra help. For multiple choice tests like the MSP, students are also able to practice at home.

Why the change?

Never intended to take a high-profile role in education, the WASL was intended to give districts a window on students progress, not be a cross-state comparison, which it has become, McConkey said.

With the change, local school officials hope the tests will reliably show how their students are progressing to meet standards.

“We want to know what kids know and can do in relationship to reading and math,” McConkey said. “If reduction of time gives us a clear indicator of progress of standards, we’re supportive of that.”

New tests eliminate the four-point math response questions, which asked for an extended written response on how students arrived at their answer.

High school needs

The HSPE’s goal is to measure a student’s proficiency of basic skills. State requirements have changed slightly with the transition to the new test.

The ability for ninth grade students to jump ahead and take the WASL prior to their sophomore year will not be available.

Due to the transition, students who have not taken the WASL will have to wait to take the HSPE as early as their sophomore year.

That is a cost-saving measure, said Carolyn Malcolm, Snoqualmie Valley School District spokeswoman.

Students in the 2010 through 2012 senior classes must pass a reading and writing assessment test to graduate. However, if they already passed the requirement through the WASL, they are not required to take the HSPE in that subject area.

Students in the class of 2013 will be required to pass reading, writing, math and science to graduate.

The reading, math and science segments are shorter and take a single day to administer. Writing will still take two days.

By spring of 2011, 25 percent of the state’s high school students will take the HSPE online in reading, writing and math.

Mount Si will be updating technology to administer the online exams simultaneously to an entire class.

“Now that our state is becoming more sophisticated in developing classroom-based assessments, we can assess what’s good... all the way along,” McConkey said. “By the time students take the assessment, it shouldn’t be a surprise as to what’s expected. They should have a fairly good understanding of how well they’ll do.”

Tests timeline

The High School Proficiency Exam and Measurements of Student Progress, new standardized tests that have replaced the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, will be administered over the next few months in Snoqualmie Valley schools.

• HSPE (grade 10)

- March 16, reading

- March 17-18, writing

- April 13, math

- April 15, science

• MSP (grades three though eight)

- May 12-28, paper and pencil

- May 3-June 4, online for grades six through eight

Learn more about new state assessments at

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