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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Page updated at 02:02 AM

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Gregoire agrees to delays in WASL

Seattle Times education reporter

Gov. Christine Gregoire used her veto power Tuesday to remove alternatives to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) passed by state legislators last month, but she maintained a five-year delay for when high-school students must pass the math and science sections of the exam to graduate.

Her signature on the bill made it official: The class of 2013, rather than the class of 2008, will be the first required to pass the math section of the 10th-grade WASL to earn their diplomas. Science, which was to be required in 2010, will be delayed until 2013, as well. The class of 2008 and beyond will still have to pass the exam's reading and writing sections, or approved alternatives.

But Gregoire did not go along with the legislators' desire to replace the WASL's math and science sections with end-of-course exams in algebra, geometry and biology, although she directed the state Board of Education to study them more. She also removed part of the bill that would have set up regional appeals boards for students who fail the WASL and sections that exempted some English-language learners from taking the exams.

Gregoire originally hoped for a shorter delay, which she thought would give schools enough time to ensure many more 10th graders pass the math and science sections. (Last year, 56 percent passed math, and 40 percent passed science.)

She has long maintained that such high failure rates show that the system, not the students, is the problem.

"Our students cannot and will not be penalized because the state has failed to do its job," she said Tuesday.

During the session, however, some lawmakers wanted to postpone reading and writing, as well as math and science. The idea of end-of-course exams also emerged.

State Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle, said he was happy with the result, even after the veto. He likes the idea of end-of-course exams but said a little more time to study them is not unreasonable. "We were all trying to cover a lot of ground in a single year," he said.

The Washington Roundtable, however, was deeply disappointed Gregoire didn't veto more of the measure. The nonprofit organization of business executives urged Gregoire to remove most, if not all, of the new alternatives to the WASL, such as the SAT college-entrance exam and Advanced Placement tests.

The bill "opens the door wider" for more students to take tests that aren't tied to state learning standards, said Roundtable Vice President Marc Frazer. "So the question is: Do we have state standards or not?"

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State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, chairwoman of the Senate's education committee, was unhappy to lose the appeals process.

Gregoire, however, said the bill listed criteria for appeal that weren't tied to state standards. She also expressed concern about the consistency among the appeals boards.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

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