The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was a standardized educational assessment system given as the primary assessment in the state of Washington from spring 1997 to summer 2009. The WASL was also used as a high school graduation examination beginning in the spring of 2006 and ending in 2009. It has been replaced by the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) for high school students and the Measurements of Students Progress (MSP) for grades 3-8. The WASL assessment consisted of examinations over four subjects (reading, mathematics, science, and writing) with four different types of questions (multiple-choice, short-answer, essay, and problem solving). It was given to students from third through eighth grades and tenth grade. Third and sixth graders were tested in reading and math; fourth and seventh graders in math, reading and writing. Fifth and eighth graders were tested in reading, math and science. The high school assessment, given during a student's tenth grade year, contained all four subjects. When compared to other forms of academic assessment, standardized testing is said to be a cost effective method to evaluate the performance of schools. They also suggest that standardized testing can be used to further “educational accountability.”
The reading and mathematics components of the WASL assessment are administered to students in the third through eighth grades in Washington’s public schools. The writing portion of the WASL is given to fourth and seventh graders. Science is given at fifth and eighth grade.
Tenth grade students are required to take WASL examinations in four subjects. In 2008, satisfactory completion of the WASL reading and writing examinations will be mandatory high school graduation requirements. Students must also attempt the math portion of the WASL in 2008 in order to meet graduation requirements, though they need not pass it. In 2013, satisfactory completion of the WASL science and mathematics examinations will also be high school graduation requirements.
High school students are allowed to retake the WASL during either a summer retest session in August or an alternate assessment in November. Students are allowed five attempts at the WASL before they are required to pay for their assessment.
Students with disabilities have many options in regard to the WASL. Students with minor disabilities can opt to take the WASL-Basic assessment. This assessment involves the student taking the regular WASL, but they are scored on a lower scale. For example, a student may require a score of 400 to pass the Reading WASL at a regular level. The WASL-Basic passing score on the same test would be 350.
Students with more extreme disabilities can take an alternate assessment in lieu of the WASL, the Washington Alternate Assessment System (WAAS) Portfolio. The WAAS-Portfolio consists of a collection of evidence created by the student and their IEP team over the course of the school year.
Eleventh and twelfth grade students with disabilities retesting the WASL have another alternate assessment option, the WAAS-DAW, which allows the student to take a lower grade level WASL. For example, a student may take the third grade Math WASL and receive credit for graduation if they pass it.
Beginning in 2008, high school students were offered alternate options to the WASL in order to meet graduation requirements. Students who attempt the WASL in reading, writing or math have the option to use the SAT, ACT, AP or PSAT (math only) scores instead of their WASL scores. Additional options exist, as well, such as a waiver for students who have passed another state's assessment (the state assessment must be approved by OSPI as being an equivalent examination). Students may also gather a collection of evidence of their work and attempt to use that in lieu of the WASL. Another option is a grades comparison, where a student who misses meeting the standard on a segment of the WASL can perform a GPA comparison with other students who have taken similar classes and did pass the WASL.