Kudos come in burger form

Dozens of Nathan Hale High School juniors tasted success yesterday - and it was as juicy as a Dick's Drive-In hamburger.

Principal Eric Benson made good on a promise of free lunch to the 68 students, now juniors, who passed all four sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning last spring.

"I have to confess, I didn't make the promise," Benson said. "The teachers made the promise for me, but I'm cool. I'm glad they can feel they can trust me on something like that."

So with bouquets of blue balloons and signs proudly stating, "I passed the WASL and I'm going to Dick's!" Benson, the happy recipients (nearly 60 of them participated) and the Nathan Hale band made their way in parade fashion to the Lake City drive-in.

Escorted by six Seattle police officers on motorcycles and two officers on horses, the troupe made its one-mile trek. As the mini-parade closed two lanes of traffic on Lake City Way, passers-by honked their horns and waved.

"I think it's great," said Nathan Hale counselor Elizabeth Graham. "We need to outstretch to the community and show off."

Students in the group weren't shy about their achievement as they smiled for cameras and waved back at pedestrians.

"It's a pretty good deal," said Jeremy Robinson. "But I think everybody tried real hard anyway."

"I'm not a good test-taker but our teachers prepared us really well," said junior Shawna Edwards.

The WASL, which measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, writing and listening, is administered each year to the state's fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders.

Starting with the class of 2008, students will have to pass all four sections of the 10th-grade WASL in order to graduate.

The 68 students represent 27.4 percent of Hale students who passed all four WASL sections. That was higher than the overall Seattle School District passing rate of 17.9 percent and the state passing rate of 20.1 percent.

"I'm kind of looking at it like the glass is half full," Benson said. "There's still a lot of work that needs to be done, but it's important to celebrate the success of the kids who have done the best."