Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - January 23, 2009

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District weighs options for snow make-up dates
At this time, the district is considering two options for making up snows days. Other options could be considered at a later time.

Option 1: Follow the school board approved 2008-2009 calendar which states snow days will be added at the end of the school year.

Option 2: Apply for a state emergency waiver made available by Governor Gregoire due to severe weather conditions across the state this winter. If applied for and approved, the district would not have to make up the missed school days.

“We want to do what is best for our students and our district,” Superintendent Rich Carter said. “Remember, we’re still in the middle of winter and may be forced to alter our schedule again. The long range forecast calls for cold and wet conditions through March. If we add the dates at the end of the school year, we would need to move the Walla Walla High School graduation date one week later into June. But, we also want to provide the educational opportunities our students deserve by conducting school and a waiver might compromise that.”

The district will continue to study its options and release the information immediately once a decision is made.

Why does State Superintendent Randy Dorn want to replace the WASL?
New State Superintendent Randy Dorn wants the new tests to be shorter, computerized and provide more timely feedback. Dorn unveiled his plans for a new state assessment system beginning in 2010, including the replacement of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). Dorn said he was elected on a promise to replace the WASL with a fairer, less expensive system of measuring student learning. He said he intends to do what is right for students and schools and wants to deliver on that promise as quickly as is possible.

What will the new assessment program be called? The new state assessment system will be called the Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program (WCAP).

Dorn has six goals related to state testing:

•  Shorten the tests

•  Reduce the amount of time students spend on written responses

•  Return scores more quickly

•  Increase the use of technology (statewide computer testing)

•  Provide more diagnostic information (strengths and weaknesses) to teachers/families

•  Minimize costs

 When will the changes take place? Because of time constraints, Dorn said no changes can be made to the WASL during this school year. However, beginning in spring 2010, the state will replace the WASL with two new tests: the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) in grades 3-8 and the High School Proficiency Exams, (HSPE).

How will the Grades 3-8 Measurement of Student Progress tests be administered? The grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) tests will be offered twice each school year, beginning in the fall of 2010. This allows students the opportunity to show proficiency more than once and provides diagnostic and educational growth information to better support individualized teaching plans. (See more on the "MSP" below)

How will the High School Proficiency Exams be administered? The High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) will be shorter and contain significantly fewer extended answer questions. Computerizing the tests will also allow a much faster turnaround on results, allowing students, teachers and families more timely information on those students who need to be retested. (See more on the "HSPE" below.)

Will the High School Proficiency Exams be a high school graduation requirement? Yes. There will also be retake opportunities for students who do not meet standards. There will also be make-up opportunities for students who are absent on testing dates. 

Is meeting standards on the existing WASL still a graduation requirement for the Class of 2009? Yes, the current system and standards apply for the Class of 2009.

Why should Freshmen take the WASL this spring? Freshmen have had the option of taking the 10th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) during their 9th grade year for several years. Each year more 9th grade students have taken advantage of this opportunity. Walla Walla Public Schools recommends those freshmen who have signed up to take the Spring 2009 WASL should continue with their plans. Walla Walla High School Principal Darcy Weisner says these students have been taking WASL assessments since the fourth grade and are familiar with the current WASL format and have demonstrated they are ready to meet these standards. Weisner also reminds students and parents that proficiency on state exams will remain a graduation requirement under Dorn's platform. He recommends they get this requirement completed as soon as possible so they can concentrate on post high school education requirements and career pathways.

Do current sophomores, juniors and seniors who have not met WASL standards need to take the exams this spring? Yes. The state graduation requirements remain in effect and these students must test each year.

How will the new testing system affect students receiving special education services?
Superintendent Dorn will convene a work group to study and to recommend changes to the Washington Alternate Assessment System and other alternative assessments for special needs students. For those students unable to test on a computer, a paper-and-pencil test will still be available.

How will the new assessment system use computers to reduce time and save money?

Dorn's plan calls for computer-delivered reading, math and science tests to be available as an option to school districts beginning in 2010 with the goal of statewide implementation by 2012. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will look closely at the feasibility of computerized scoring of the writing test. Computerizing the tests will also require far less resources, both in time and money, according to Dorn.

Will the new assessment program maintain high academic standards? Yes. Dorn said he is committed to maintaining high academic standards to prepare students for post high school educational opportunities.

If you are testing twice each school year, doesn't that take up more time than the WASL?
No. As opposed to the WASL, the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) computer tests will provide great flexibility and won't require all students to test at the same time on the same day. Students will be able to test in their school's computer lab at different times on different days, so it does not disrupt the entire school calendar and classroom instruction, according to Dorn.

Will the math assessments change under Dorn's plan? More than likely. Dorn proposes replacing the current math and science tests to review and refine the standards for those content areas. Dorn believes they must ensure the standards are workable and reflect the real-life needs of students. He intends to put forward legislation during this legislative session to delay the effective dates of the graduation requirements tied to those standards and tests until the State Board of Education can make a finding that they are “valid and reliable.”

How will this impact No Child Left Behind requirements? Dorn proposes moving the spring “accountability test,” which meets the requirements set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to later in the spring. He said OSPI will continue to study NCLB requirements and how to use the new assessment system to meet these requirements.

What are Dorn's timelines for new math and science standards? (subject to change per requested legislation)

• Tests for grades 3-8 will measure the new math standards in 2010

• Tests for grades 5 and 8 will measure new science standards in 2011

• High school math and science tests will measure the new math and science standards in 2011

What are Dorn's beliefs regarding learning standards and curriculum?

• Dorn supports the current reading and writing standards, but we must always monitor how they are working in meeting our goals for our students. The standards should only be changed if and when we determine that they are falling behind the real skills needed for kids to succeed.

• Dorn will be asking the legislature to remove the 2013 deadline for the math and science graduation requirements. It will be difficult to design an assessment based on the current science standards. The new math standards are an improvement, but we must continue to review them and propose improvements while we move ahead with the new assessment.

• The requirement to earn two math credits after 10th grade for those students who do not meet standard on the high school math assessment should remain, according to Dorn.

• Dorn supports the move to end-of-course testing in math. The last year of the high school math WASL, if approved by the Legislature, will be 2010 (the current law calls for 2013). Four end-of-course exams will be implemented in 2011 (Algebra I, Geometry, Integrated I and II). A “core math” test measuring first and second year high school math will be available as a graduation alternative starting in 2011.

• Regarding math curriculum, Dorn supports the recommendations of the State Board of Education consultants and he will not be advancing the “Bridges” curriculum for grades K-5.

Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) in Grades 3-8

The MSP will differ from the WASL in numerous and significant ways. The grades 3-8 tests will be used as tools for teachers to evaluate the progress of students with almost immediate feedback.

The grades 3-8 MSP tests will be:

Shorter, both in time required to take the test and the number of days needed to administer it. Key components OSPI plans to implement, are:

•  Reducing the number of “long answer” questions in reading, math and science from the current 40 percent of the WASL to no more than a quarter of the new tests. (Note: We are also examining the ways to shorten the time it takes for the writing test)

•  Shortening the reading passages on which the questions are formulated in the reading test.

•  Including “completion” items in reading and math tests, where students provide a short response (for example, a single number or one/two words). These items require more than a multiple choice item and are easily adaptable to computerized testing.

•  Making testing available twice during the school year in the spring and fall. We want to afford students more than one chance to show proficiency, and provide diagnostic and growth information to support individualized teaching plans.

•  Designing the tests for each subject area to be administered in a single sitting, allowing for students to possibly test in two subjects in one day.


Less expensive and tied to technology. This means:

•  Students will be able to take the grades 3-8 reading, writing, math and science MSP tests on a computer. This will reduce costs and allow for a rapid response for students and teachers.

•  Computerized testing will begin as an option in 2010 and expand in 2011, with the goal of it becoming a statewide requirement by 2012. We will also look closely at the feasibility of computerized scoring of the writing test, further reducing costs.


High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) The High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) will measure whether students have learned the required basic skills in reading, writing, math and science. Dorn strongly believes in high standards and in using the reading and writing tests as part of our graduation requirements. It is also my commitment to streamline and make more readily available alternative steps to reach graduation. As with the MSPs, the HSPE will be shorter and contain significantly fewer extended answer questions.

Also, with computerization, we will be able to receive results on a faster turnaround, affording students, families and teachers better and more timely information to assist those who need to be retested time to do so. We will pilot computerizing the reading and science test in 2010. The new end-of-course tests in math mandated by the Legislature are scheduled for 2011, and those will also be available on computer.

We have the goal of statewide computerized testing in 2012, greatly reducing the resources needed to administer these tests, cutting down on storage costs and requiring far less staff time in our school districts. Our current test contractors have a proven track record of computer testing in other states. We are confident they will be able to adapt to our new assessment plan. We will continue to examine additional improvements to the high school tests, but we must ensure that any changes we make are tied to the graduation requirements and other guidelines outlined in the 1993 education reforms, for which Dorn led the writing and passage of as chair of the House Education Committee.


Additional Information: For more information or questions regarding these changes, please contact Communications Director Mark Higgins, 509.526.6716 or mhiggins@wwps.org.


Berney Elementary principal to resign at end of school year
Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Berney Elementary Principal David Talley Tuesday night. The resignation is effective at the end of the 2008-2009 school year — June 30, 2009.

He was hired by Walla Walla Public Schools May 15, 2001. Talley says he’s ready to pursue other professional opportunities.

“In the past three years I have become passionate about online learning and the potential it has to restructure the way we educate students,” Talley said in his resignation letter. “I find myself with opportunities in this rapidly growing arena that I intend to pursue.”

Talley earned his Master’s of Arts in Education Degree from Chapman University with an emphasis in school administration. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Humboldt State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with an emphasis in biological sciences. Talley also holds a superintendent’s credential.

Prior to his hiring in Walla Walla School District 140, Talley spent three years as Assistant Principal of Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton, OR. He has also held the principal position at Apple Valley Middle School (CA) for two years and has been a high school assistant principal. Talley spent the first 10 years of his career in education as a school teacher.

National teaching certifications awarded
Walla Walla teachers Susan Bauer (Garrison), Susan Schulz (Garrison), Shannon Ahrens (Garrison), Kim Kelsay (Pioneer) and Charlene Maib (Pioneer) have received certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Tuesday night Superintendent Rich Carter and School Board President Mary Jo Geidl presented the recipients with special pins recognizing their achievements. Carter said these educators bring honor to the district through their high level of professionalism and dedication.

Certification requirements include: authoring a detailed professional portfolio, video taping classroom instruction and passing a challenging assessment to test subject knowledge.

These teachers earn a 10-year certificate. The district now has a total of 29 teachers with National Professional teaching certificates. Fellow Walla Walla educators Gayle See and Cindy Nass mentored these teachers. There are currently 1,807 teaching in the state.

District Transportation Cooperative proposal receives state approval
The district recently received approval from the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for its proposal to develop the Southeast Washington Transportation Cooperative. The proposal now goes to Olympia for funding consideration. The project stands to receive 90 percent funding from the State of Washington -- approximately $3.8 million.

The district has teamed with Prescott and Dixie School Districts and ESD 123 to develop the cooperative partnership. This week, school board members approved a contract with Architects West for the SE Washington Transportation Co-Op building. Architects West will continue design work on the project. The school board also approved a contract with Dax Logsden of ESD 112/123 for construction management work on the SE Washington Transportation Co-Op. Logsden has extensive experience building transportation cooperatives in the Pacific Northwest.

Superintendent Carter addresses Rotary
Thursday Superintendent Rich Carter spoke to the Rotary Club of Walla Walla on various educational issues. Carter reported it’s too early to tell how state budget cuts will impact Walla Walla schools. He outlined new State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s proposed changes to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). He provided an update on the Edison construction project, reported Walla Walla High School Principal Darcy Weisner will continue a study on high school facilities and announced progress on the Southeast Washington Transportation Cooperative.
Staff and students honor School Board Recognition Month
January is School Board Recognition Month in the state of Washington, a recognition that coincides with a nationwide effort to honor and underscore the important role of elected school board members in public education and student achievement.

Tuesday night, Walla Walla school board members received tokens of appreciation from staff and students across the district. Garrison Middle School staff and students made a short video to the song “Footloose” as a way to show their appreciation to the school board. Superintendent Rich Carter praised school board members for their leadership and commitment to helping Walla Walla youth receive a quality education. School board members are: Max Carrera, Mary Jo Geidl, Anne Golden, Dr. Jim Lehmann, and Cindy Meyer.

There are 1,477 school board members in Washington state’s 295 public school districts, each elected by the citizens of their respective communities. The districts they lead serve more than one million students, have a combined annual budget of $6 billion, and employ nearly 100,000 people.

As “governors” of their districts, school directors contribute hundreds of volunteer hours each year making decisions aimed at promoting student achievement. School directors have a multitude of responsibilities, including vision- and goal-setting, establishing standards for what students should learn, adopting policies and budgets, and working as a team with administrators, teachers, parents, students and the community to foster a safe and productive learning environment.

Below are just some of the recent highlights our school board can be proud of:
• Groundbreaking of the Edison Construction project last spring - This school promises to be a 21st Century showcase.
• School Board directed a High School Facilities Task Force to study secondary high school options — this study continues under the leadership of Darcy Weisner.
• School board mastered “paperless” board meetings - This effort saves our district nearly $10,000 per year.
• School board continues efforts to develop a future Support Services facility.
•District received approval from OSPI to develop a Transportation Cooperative. This operation would improve service and cut costs.
• District passed a four-year levy — Our school board supported a resolution to get a Simple Majority issue in place for levies, which was later passed by Washington voters.
•School board approved new elementary and middle school boundaries.
• District energy program received national Energy Pacesetter Award for recording more than $2 million in savings.
• School board approved a study of high school Vo-Tech Skills Center. This program could open the door to numerous job skills and interests.

“This is just a snapshot of all the positive accomplishments our school district has realized under the leadership of our school board,” Carter said. “Let’s take time to recognize once again our school board for their efforts to continually improve the educational program for our students, staff and community.”

District continues to cut energy costs and usage
Tuesday night District Energy Management Program Director John Butenhoff reported the district has cut energy usage 21 percent and saved $2.4 million since the program started nine years ago. This year alone the district has saved more than $250,000 to offset constant rate increases for electricity, water, and natural gas.

Butenhoff says staff members make the difference by diligently monitoring and adjusting energy use.
T-shirt give away at Blue Devil boys basketball game Saturday
Free t-shirts will be given away to Walla Walla High School students attending the Blue Devil boys basketball home game Saturday, Jan. 24 vs. Eastmont. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.

These spirit shirts were made available at no cost to the school district thanks to generous sponsorships from Valley Vision, Pepsi of Walla Walla, McDonald Zaring Insurance, T Walla Walla by Original Design, and Big Blue Boosters. The bright blue t-shirts display the school’s logo and state -- “The best things in life are Blue and White.”

“In an effort to add to our student support at the home basketball games, we are excited about the opportunity to give away t-shirts to Wa-Hi students who attend our games,” said Wa-Hi Head Basketball Coach John Golden. “Our fan support is so important and we appreciate what they provide for us. We couldn’t have done it without the support of Pepsi, Valley Vision, McDonald-Zaring Insurance, and Big Blue Boosters.”

Classroom Close-Up features Berney Elementary 5th grade teacher
This week Berney Elementary 5th grade teacher Julie Anderson is featured as part of the district’s Classroom Close-Up series. A fun, information filled newsletter will be posted on the district website next week — (www.wwps.org).

A radio spot featuring Anderson is now playing on regional stations.

Retired educators offer scholarships
The Walla Walla-Columbia Retired School Employees Association has two $1000 scholarships available.

These are the two requirements:
1. The applicant graduated from an accredited high school in Walla Walla or Columbia County.
2. The applicant will student teach between September 2009 and June 2010.

The application is due April 1, 2009.

“Please inform your staff about these scholarships and encourage them to let family, friends, and neighbors know they are available,” said Scholarship Coordinator Mardel Bierwagen.

For more information, contact:
Mardel Bierwagen

District not using recalled peanut butter
The peanut butter used in Walla Walla Public Schools is not part of the current recall, according to Food Services Director Pam Milleson.

For additional information about products you may have purchased go to the following address:

Personnel Report (from the 1/20/09 school board meeting)
• New Hires
Mikaelyn Cottier Swayne, Mental Health Coordinator, Head Start
Valerie Vicari, Custodian, Wa-Hi
William Van Dyke, Para-Educator, Sharpstein

• Resignations/Retirements
David Talley, Principal, Berney (8 years)
• Talley’s resignation is effective at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Charleen Kaaen, Second Grade, Edison (33 years)
Laura Watson, ESL, Walla Walla High School, 2 years
• Watson was on a leave of absence for the 2008-09 school year.

(Classified) Trevor Nix, Para-Educator, Walla Walla High School (7 months)
Armin Schulz, Bus Driver, Transportation Department, 3 years

• Leave of Absences
(Certificated) Andy Maheras, Social Studies, Walla Walla High School (5 years)
• Maheras will serve as acting building principal at Edison Elementary for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year.

District spending linked to goals
Tuesday night district Chief Financial Officer Pat Johnston provided the school board with the 2007-08 year end financial report. Johnston highlighted how district finances are prioritized and linked to the district’s strategic plan goals. The district remains fiscally sound. She said conservative budgeting, including not spending more than we have, will help as the district faces more state cuts.

Garrison student attends President Obama’s Inauguration
Garrison Middle School 8th grade student Julia Cosma attended this week’s presidential inauguration. She went with the National Junior Young Leader Group. Cosma met with Colin Powell on Sunday. She attended the inauguration and the Inauguration Ball, according to Explorer Program teacher Beth Clearman.

Explorer Program nominations now accepted
Explorer Program Nominations are now being accepted for the 2009-2010 school year. Information on the program for gifted and talented students is available in both English and Spanish on the district web site under the Support Programs/Explorers link. http://www.wwps.org/programs/explorers.htm

Information sheets, along with parent nomination forms, have been sent to schools. They are available in English and Spanish. Contact your child’s teacher for more information. He or she will be able to help you decide if your child is a good candidate for this rigorous education program.

The deadline for nominations is January 30, 2009. Testing will take place in a centralized location during the week of March 16-20, 2009.