December 09, 2005
How to Monkey-Wrench Education
Former two-term Democratic governor of Washington Booth Gardner helped launch education reform in this state, which gave birth to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. That's the crucial test now used to measure progress by schools and their students under the national No Child Left Behind Act. Washington high-schoolers will have to pass the 10th grade WASL to graduate 12th grade, starting in 2008, which already has Seattle Public Schools officials in a world of hurt. We should really be pressing for 11th and 12th grade WASLs too. Students will get a generous five tries on the WASL, but there are worries that won't be enough. Many are already failing in their initial tries, during the run-up to '08. And now Gardner - who earlier convened a partially-abandoned group to talk WASL alternatives - says in today's Seattle Times that things like work portfolios or - get this - completion of an auto mechanic's certification might be good graduation-requirement substitutes for WASL-impaired students. Sheesh. Back to school, Booth. And same to the Washington State PTA, and the Latino and Native American groups trying to dilute WASL standards.
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at December 09, 2005
02:47 PM | Email This
Wait, wait, wait. What's the trouble w/ an auto mechanics cert substituting? After all, if you've got one of those, a HS Diploma is significantly less important in the first place, so kids with those kind of skills, but difficulty passing the WASL are likely to drop out anyway.
That said, I don't think that would work under NCLB.
And all that said, the WASL is a bad test. Subjectivity=bad testing. Objectivity=good testing.
This is great!
"And, he said, he realized that if the passing rate didn't go up — just 42 percent passed last spring — parents could revolt."
He assumes that the revolt will be that the test and standards are too high, rather than the education system being awful and a waste of tax dollars! You would think the response would be to improve education, but no, the Dems natural response - lower the standards.
To democratize means to level out, to hopefully fill in the lows, and to absolutely raze the highs. (That sounded kind of poetic!) And that is the problem... a society must have the highs in order to thrive. If you eliminate the highs, you end up with, well, Seattle Public Schools.
I'm on the fence with the WASL. I have two students in public schools and have witnessed a lot of strange education ideas.
When it comes time to take the WASL the teachers push rote learning to make sure the students know the answers to the questions that will be asked. The concept of understanding the topic or even the usefullness of the information is lost.
On the other hand I've seen some real problems with teachers. Without some testing of student knowledge those problems don't come to light. Currently my youngest son is receiving an F in Washington State History. The sad part is that his grade is one of the highest in the class. This tells me the teacher is failing. I would not have know this if I had not asked.
I don't know what the right solution is. I only know that the current solution is flawed.
5. My niece characterized the 10th grade WASL as something most should be able to pass with little or no trouble. The problem is that those who can't pass it are generally the product of a family that has produced and has come to accept nothing but mediocrity for generations.
Booth Gardner (and Boeing's Frank Shrontz, et.al.) did indeed give birth to WASL. But as I recall, implementation of WASL has been left almost completely up to the Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. If you have concerns about WASL, you should direct them to her. If you have concerns about Terry Bergeson, you should direct them at Matt Rosenberg.
Here is Matt's biography from his own blog. There are some interesting tidbits in the 10th paragraph on his involvement in the Bergeson campaign. This might make for interesting discussion, if Matt wants to share his thoughts on Ms. Bergeson and her performance.
I'm not saying that Matt is the pot calling the kettle black, but I would like to see this web disentangled a bit more.
One of the "dirty little secrets of the WASL" has to do with "diversity." All of these are code words.
The WASL was pushed by business interests because they were sick and tired of hiring high school graduates who could not read, write, or do simple math. The WASL was designed to help business use a high school diploma as a hiring screening device without charges of racism, sexism, etc.
The problem is that most schools & the teachers' unions haven't made the necessary adjustments so that kids actually learn what they need to.
Soon there is going to be a huge class of central city and rural school children who have no high school diploma and no hope for getting family wage jobs, because they can't pass the WASL.
The crisis is actually quite ugly from a social standpoint. In their junior year many will take the practice-pre test and conclude they will never graduate. At that point some will drop out and others will just fill chairs. Those that don't pass the WASL, but understand the employment consequences or are so forced by their parents will then probably try to repeat a year of high school. There will not be space available for them in the low performing districts. You will have angry parents and a lot of folks with little hope for a good job.
When that day comes that passing the WASL is the only way to get a high school diploma one of two things will happen, (1) there will be a democratic party & civil rights groups condemnation of the teachers unions and schools (not likely!) or (2) Statements that the WASL is racist/sexist, ....ist and that all those politicians who helped pass it were in league with the devil.
Either way, the WASL is likely to split the Democratic Party (if they haven't done that already.)
Speaking of splitting the party, I would like to see all of the minority church pastors be reminded about how the Democratic Party was trying to sell anti-Christian car magnets. I think that the Democratic party is self destructing before our eyes.
Oh, I love it! A new moniker: WASL Impaired. Translate that to can't spell, can't read, can't do math, and therefore even the subjective portion of the test is blown. If the teachers would stop worrying about their heinies and REALLY teach the basics rather than teaching to the test itself, most of the kids would pass, anyway!
And by the way, most auto mechanics who have their own business make more than a physician, so go figure!
We need to stop worrying about the tests. Just raise expectations for every day class performance and testing, demand the best out of students, and they will achieve. However, that takes a highly skilled teacher. I don't mind paying commensurate wages for good instructors, but I balk at the stranglehold the union has on the schools in making it so difficult to get rid of underperforming teachers, undermining classroom discipline, and in directing so much money away from classrooms.
Of course former Gov. Booth Gardner opposes the WASL. Boys are not doing as well as girls. I could have told him that without the benefit of the WASL. It has been well-known for a long time that boys are not treated equally in public schools. I am sure Mrs. Gregoire will listen to him. Ha.
Only 42 percent of high school sophomores passed this test. That's pathetic. It's really no different than SAT and ACT tests. Those who test well graduate and get the choice scholarships. The other 58 percent get, well, not much.
My youngest is a junior this year and had to take the WASL. It will be a factor in admissions to a four-year university. She passed all four parts. She said that it wasn't that hard and feels so many didn't pass because they just don't care.
Huckleberry, when Terry won OSPI in 96 she campaigned as wanting to uphold school reform in WA, which was under attack even then. Frankly, were I to give her office a grade now on how well they've tried to uphold the spirit of school reform - especially high standards - I'd have to really review a lot of evidence.
I know there are previous posts by other contributors here that might shed light on what OSPI has or hasn't done. Please feel free to offer any further views on that. One thing I did notice about Terry was that in '04, when the big push came for the modest charter school bill - the one that passed - she supported it, although she could have been more energetic about it. Of course, the WEA-sponsored Ref. 55 later erased the charter legislation, quite sadly. For many of us parents who have opted to live and raise our children in Seattle, a college-prep oriented charter is the only alternative to private schools right now, as SPS aren't viable. The more dodging of WASL I see from SPS and various other apoligists for mediocrity, the more discouraged I get about public schools. It's not as though WASL is the end of the story, or that the test is perfect, but it's an important tool for accountability. The parents, students, and "leaders" such as Gardner who are trying to undermine WASL provide a sad commentary on public education in our state, in my view.
Thanks for the response, Matt.
Bergeson has been more firm on maintaining the integrity of the WASL, such as it is, than I would have expected. But she has not been an effective leader. I would have expected her to fight the original WASL, if for no other reason than the cost of administering it. Instead she has behaved like a WASL cheerleader. She has not turned out to be much of a reformer, and I think a reformer is much needed.
I liked the idea of the WASL when it was proposed, before the Essential Learnings were defined and the before I learned about the problems with tests containing open ended questions. It takes about 1 week in the WASL (or WASL-like) scoring business to understand how subjective and how expensive the WASL is. Washington State needs to re-examine it's Essential Learnings and definitely find a better test format.
Many parents are concerned about the high stakes nature of exit testing. It has always been that way, but only the parents of 4-year college bound children have worried about it. We have democratized college, and we have sold the idea that every child has a right to attend college, and passing hurdles to gain admittance are evil.
If the entirety of families of public school children don't want to play the high stakes game, then the bar will have to be lowered. If that happens, then the whole certification exercize will have been a waste of time and money.
Perhaps the first step was the wrong step. Boeing and Microsoft should have continued to rely on their own HR departments to evaluate their job candidates. Expecting the state to certify the results of public education may have been too large a hurdle in Washington State.
12. And to think, this is the same person responsible for the waste of education dollars that is Tree Hugger U (Evergreen University on their official, recycled stationary). "Formal classes and subjects be Dammed! Lets just fool people into thinking they know something!".
13. I have a question that I recently posted on another thread before I realized things have shifted over to here. I am the mother if two boys. My older son failed the tenth grade WASL three years ago, even though he is an ‘A’ student and received high scores on both ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) given to him in seventh grade and a CAT (California Achievement Test) he took at Sylvan Leaning Center after the WASL. He is currently in college earning good grades. It is because of his consistent scores on the other two tests, that I have cast doubts on the WASL.
My younger son is in the class of 2008, currently a sophomore. I really feel that there is something wrong with WASL and I am worried about him taking it.
Does any one else feel this way? What if he fails the WASL, but I take him to Sylvan for a CAT test and the scores come up way different? Can a parent challenge WASL scores? Any input would be helpful.
14. Just a note to CC: My oldest son, also felt that he did well on the WASL, and being a good student, he should have. That's why we were so surprised that he failed the math and reading portions of the WASL.(And he is an avid reader!)
I also want to say that I have spoken to most colleges in the state, and they cannot use WASL scores for admission because not all students take WASL. I got the impression that they couldn't care less about WASL.
Based on my experience with WASL, I just don't know what to think.
Your devotion to the WASL test is a mystery!
The test itself is terrible as an educational assessment. Prior to the WASL, there were several assessment tests given to students to measure their knowledge and skill levels. The SAT, ACT, ITBS tests were difficult yet - provided great assessments of individual student academic knowledge and skill level.
These were all scrapped for the disasterous WASL. Why? Why was the WASL, an incredibly flawed and subjective test, created to replace these traditional and reliable assessment tests?
Why do you insist on championing the flawed WASL -over the traditional tests?
I've been a parent in the public school system for over 25 years. I have 10 more years to go! I have seen my children tested using the traditional and the WASL tests. I have seen traditional curriculum (ie; math) change to "spiraling" math and "reform" math. I have seen bright children suddenly flat line in math after the transition to these new concepts! I have heard teachers complain in disgust about having to teach the reform math! I have heard teachers complain in anger about the WASL test!
If you pass the 10th Grade WASL test and transfer to a Texas highschool in your junior year, your new school will throw out your WASL test scores and make you take a "real" assessment test! The same with most colleges. It's embarrassing!
Combining the mind-scrambing "reform/spiral" math with the "subjective/how do I feel about this equation" WASL test - pretty much guarantees that our kids will be flipping burgers well into their adult lives!
You cannot possibly have children. No parent, in their right mind, who has the capacity to understand these educational disasters, would ever promote them!
The problem with the WASL (some would say it is a virtue) is that it heavily favors those with strong verbal skills. This is great if you are trying to assess a student's writing ability. But once you have established that a student has trouble putting his thoughts on paper, the over-emphasis of verbal skills becomes an extreme liability. What does writing skill have to do with math or reading? You may have excellent math skills and great reading comprehension, but if you cannot commit your thoughts to paper, you get down-scored. This is why many students who are strong in the non-writing areas do poorly on the overall WASL.
Where is Andy?
The big problem here is that few people will deny that girls tend to have better verbal (writing) skills than boys. So you would expect a test that emphasizes writing so heavily to favor the girls. And what do we see when we look at the WASL scores? Yup, a staggering gap between separating boys and girls, with the boys coming up short. They are about even on SAT's, but there is a gap in WASL's.
The WASL- If you can't pass it, you've got bigger things to worry about in your future than whether or not there is a diploma on record at your former high school.
It's scary to think someone not able to pass that test is out having babies.
Regarding the writing skills. Which gender begins writing coherent sentences in a daily diary at a young age? Writing is a skill developed by using it. It's that simple.
18. Andy, as I said before, my son recieved high scores on other tests and is doing well in college. He has never been in any kind of trouble. He also volunteers his time at our church charities. So please tell me what "bigger things" I need to be worried about as he enters the adult world.
I have a hard time believing that the test is valid if the majority are failing it. If those are both true statements, then something is drastically wrong with the teaching. If the WASL uses a different method of assessing the skills and knowledge than the SAT or AP tests, then how can it be a valid assessment of learning? My duaghter took tests in California and in Texas to graduation from high school.
I read somewhere that Washington spends 40% of our state budget on education. A lot of those billions are going to State colleges and Universities. Our counties spend a lot of our property taxes on education. It isn't unreasonable to expect that the 10 grand or so spent on every student every year is used wisely.
20. Sorry folks(including Matt) Sarah is right! The WASL is flawed in how it is set up. The questions when it first come out were extremely confusing to understand!! Sarah unfortunately there does not seem to be a suitable substitue test for the WASL at this time my son has to take this miserable test to graduate in 08!! I guess they may let the student pass it several times bfore it is a done deal.One friend who has been fighting this test said the only way around this is to take Ged classes in colledge.Sorry I couldn't have been of more help. I think we really do need a better alternative test to more fairly & ojectively measure a students skills.I want to make it clear IM NOT AGAINST TESTING JUST BAD TESTING PERIOD!!
My sister just finished her Master's of Ed. thesis. The topic: WASL standards. You should contact PLU (Tacoma, WA) and ask for a copy of it, or I can send you one (email me if you're interested).
She made some interesting findings, not the least of which is that teacher negativity towards the WASL only compounds the problem.
She started out against the WASL, as both of us have struggled with standardized testing in the past. But that quickly changed as she began to evaluate the evidence.
Now, to your mocking of the "auto-mechanic" alternative, you're treading on thin ice. I have a cousin who took vocational training after failing the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. He's a SPED student, meaning he's developmentally delayed (MMR).
He was able to get his Diploma and transition into a job, all thanks to WorkForce and his high school counselors. Without a diploma, he'd be just another demand on the welfare system. His case is only one of many, and is a good example, in my view, of why you need to re-think your phraseology--if not your position--on graduation standards.
I'm a WASL wonk so I hope I can clear up a few misconceptions.
The sophomore class this year must take and pass the WASL to graduate from high school in 2008. They will get their results in the fall of their junior year. They get 4 state-paid for opportuntities to take the WASL. After 2 failing tries, they are eligible for whatever alternatives (and yes, there should be alternatives but with high standards)OSPI creates. Want to know where your education dollars are going? It costs between $42-72 per student (depending on grade level) to give and score the WASL. By contrast the ITBS (which is admittedly a different test although used for decades throughout the US) costs $3 per student.
I have my own WASL story (and it's why I opt my kids out every year which, yes, you can do and the sky won't fall) but I won't go into it. Suffice to say, I believe the WASL is a expensive, overly-long (ask any elementary, middle, high school principal how long and disruptive the WASL testing period is at their school) and flawed testing instrument particularly in math. If they would go back to teaching the basics in math and not have it so writing based, the math scores would accurately reflect that kids can do well in math.
My best suggestion to parents who don't like the WASL is to opt out. If there were huge numbers of students not taking it, it would be reformed. Also, a little known fact about the WASL is that your freshman student can take the 10th grade WASL. It is a great advantage because you will know, by the fall of their sophomore year (not fall of junior year) how ready they are. If they pass any part of the WASL their freshman year, that counts as a pass for 10th grade. If they come up short (scoring a 1, the lowest score) on, say, math, then you as the parent will know what to focus on. Why wait until the fall of their junior year? Sure, some of the curriculum will not have been covered if they take it their freshman year but wouldn't you rather know sooner rather than later what subjects they need to work on?
Also, as far as usage in college admissions. First, no out of state college or university will ever use state assessments. Why? Because there are 50 of them, all completely different. No college admissions officer has time for that kind of detail. Second, UW admissions officers have told me they are taking a "wait and see" stance on the WASL to use for admission. Again, because they don't have separate admissions forms for in or out of state students and also because they need a baseline of at least 3-4 years of students taking and passing the WASL to see if it is valid. The scholarship issue, well, the WASL will be used but to even get into the running for the scholarships they are mentioning, a student has to have a 3.9+ GPA and a very high SAT score. The WASL is the least of the worries.
Last, you may start hearing from OSPI that it is "not legal" to opt out the WASL. I investigated this and it isn't under NCLB. It isn't under the WASL legislation. It vaguely is under the compulsory education law except that (1) it doesn't directly say that parents can't opt their students out of assessments (2)OSPI has no power of enforcement and (3) OSPI has been allowing (and even has a web page about parental opt-outs)opt-ing out for years, so why wouldn't they have said something years ago?
Opting out is the only way to reform WASL short of having reasonable alternatives. Ms Bergeson is beyond being a cheerleader (and I think she realizes her mistake but it's too late now) and won't listen to anyone.
23. If the parents opt the child out - do they still get a diploma?
Low scores and not passing are different things. Yes, some of us are poor at standardized tests but the result is binary. You either pass or you don't.
Some freaks love scoring high on standardized tests, but with that and 2 bucks you can leave a tip at Starbucks. Is the issue that too many of the questions are out of line or that there should be no standardized metric?
Remember, the test is less about your child, than it is a reflection of the schools performance.
The post is off the subject, which is the WASL and current efforts to weaken, it. Just for the record, though, Dan Evans is responsible for The Evergreen State College, not Booth Gardner. A topic for another day.
Andy, the problem with open-ended questions is they are subject to misinterpretation, both on the part of the test takers and the scorers. The questions are processed through an elaborate (expensive) system involving teachers, administrators, and the scorers, to weed out confusing questions, and to define scoring rubrics. For each moderately complex question with open-ended answers, you can count on about 1/4 of the test takers going off on an unanticipated tanget, demonstrating perfectly viable math or science or whatever, but definitely "off prompt." The more complex the question, the more test takers go off prompt. ITBS and SAT don't have this problem.
Also, the scoring industry is downright spooky. For some questions, they will start with 50 people scoring all problems in a test suite. After a few hundred scores, it becomes apparent that perhaps 25 of these "certified" scorers cannot score consistently, so they are banned from scoring that problem. Inconsistent scorers keep getting dropped, so that the bulk of the tests get scored by 5 or 6 scorers that for whatever reason, perhaps limited vocabulary, end up scoring the same way. Accuracy is traded off against repeatability. It really is a cruel joke.
Far better to go with a multiple choice, fill in the bubble kind of test for math, science, and reading. True, kids who are guessing will get it right 25% of the time, but you can account for that. It is much more difficult to account for the 25 to 50% who know a lot but didn't score any points because they were "off prompt."
From what I have observed of the WASL, it is easier for less bright kids to score as well as bright kids. I suspect that some in academia would consider this one of the advantages of the WASL. I think it is a mistake.
Again, the WASL should have exactly one section to measure a student's ability to write. The rest of the test should be designed to indicate ability in other areas without relying excessively on the ability to write.
O.K. here are the sample math questions, as published in the Pee Eye. I coppied and distributed it at work and the result was 100% correct answers from ~20 participants. And yes I included those who are not engineers in my sample. It ain't rocket science folks. The answers are linked at the botttom of the sample test.
I have no problem with the standards WASL is supposed to be promoting. I think the level of knowledge that they expect kids to know is an appropriate level. Where I have a problem is with how accurate the WASL is at measuring this.
Did any one see on KING 5 News about 3 weeks ago when a parent viewed OSPI's web site that contained actual test questions from past 10th grade math WASLs? The parent was an engineer and found 7 errors out of 42 questions. Students were supposed to pick an answer from a multiple choice selection and then write about how they came up with the answer. The problem was, the correct answer was never one of the choices! Imagine how this would throw students off!!
29. On the same note, I should add that I spoke to a mother that viewed her fourth graders completed WASL. She said her daughter was so upset that she failed a section of WASL. Well, in viewing the test, the mother finds out that her daughter skipped a page! The mother was most surprised to find that the pages of the test were not bound together. They were just loose pages. Information on one page is needed to answer questions on a different page, so it is neccessary to flip back and forth to complete the test.
This mother was able to contact two other parents that also viewed completed tests. One of those mothers says the test was bound into a booklet, and the other mother says her test was not (and that her husband was getting irritated by all the page flipping that was needed). Has any one else heard this? The inconsistancy about whether the pages are bound together or not bothers me, especially for young test takers.
I believe this is the page of 10th grade WASL sample math test that Sarah H is referring to...
I don't think they've fixed the errors yet...
"I also want to say that I have spoken to most colleges in the state, and they cannot use WASL scores for admission because not all students take WASL. I got the impression that they couldn't care less about WASL."
That is not what I am hearing from high school teachers who have spoken to college admissions offices. The WASL will not be THE deciding factor in admission but it will be A factor for this year and next.
I do know university professors are disappointed at the writing portion. They do not endorse the method these kids are learning to pass the WASL.
I am not a proponent of the WASL. I feel it is a waste of time and money.
, thanks for posting the link to the sample WASL questions. It is very instructive.
Obviously, this is not the entire math section of the WASL. In fact, please note that these are all fill in the bubble, multpiple choice questions. These questions are great for figuring you who knows math, and who does not, if you remember that an idiot taking random guesses will score about 25%.
The complete WASL is about half multiple choice and half open-ended "essay" questions. You have to do things like create graphs, and your choice of wording, and tick-mark spacing, etc. count against you. It is very, very difficult giving a blank page, and evaluating the quality of the product. It is "holistic."
Multiple choice questions are relatively fool-proof, and much less expensive.
As I said, thanks for providing this valuable information.
33. Terry Bergeson is one of the architects of the WASL. That is why she champions it. It is her baby. She doesn't have children of her own. This is her legacy!
34. Terry Bergeson is one of the architects of the WASL. That is why she champions it. It is her baby. She doesn't have children of her own. This is her legacy!
35. Double post! AAAAACK!
thanks for the clarification.
I had the misconception that it was a dumbed down version of the SAT's.
None the less- I know several kids who made it half way through elementary school w/out being able to read. Shame on the parents for not reading w/ them at night, but at the same time, the quality has definately gone down. At the same time, my nephew who had a lot of foundation work by his parents, could read quite well before kindergarten is now a behavior problem (I'm guessing he's bored).
Just to clarify; if your child doesn't take the WASL, they will not get a diploma (and may not, for all I know, be allowed to graduate with their class - it probably depends on the school district). However, I will point out that home-schooled kids don't get diplomas or graduate and they seem to get into college just fine. UW doesn't require a diploma to get in. If you were a 3.8 with great SATs and other good elements (community service, leadership, etc.), I doubt having a diploma would be a barrier. But, that said, many kids would be devastated to not graduate although the loss of diploma is minimal (quick! where's your high school diploma?).
I certainly wish UW would publicly state what their policy/attitude is towards WASL. I took notes from my conversations with admissions officers at UW and they seem very reserved about using the WASL as an admissions criteria.
One other interesting thing that was in the PI's Sunday editorial about the WASL. They state that sophomores would get their results in June which is news to me. I'll have to check with OSPI; it seems like it would cost them more to get the scores back that fast.
Andy: My son, who could also read well before kindergarten, was likewise a "behavior problem". His older brother could have been similarly challenging - but he had the right teacher who knew how to keep him motivated and productive. It all depends on the personality and energy level of the teacher involved with the child. Unfortunately, parents don't have much control over placement. I did my level best to have the youngest boy placed with a teacher I knew and trusted. However, they switched her to teaching a different grade, and that pretty much sealed it.
I even lowered my expectations. I realized that my son's academic performance was beyond grade level, so I should just accept that he would not receive much attention. I figured he could work on social skills - making friends, paying attention in class, etc. Only later did I find out that he spent a lot of time in trouble for not being on task, and, instead of playing on the playground during recess, they were allowing him to go to the library and read to himself! He made one great friend - the librarian!
After fall conferences, we pulled him out. They had not even taken the time to assess his reading (even though they have a full-time Reading Readiness program and could easily have pulled him aside; they do this for the slower readers).
He is currently taking online classes. His language skills have improved further. That seems like a good thing, but it makes it very hard to figure out what to do with him educationally! One problem we have run into is that at his reading level many books contain adult subject matter. I pretty much have to read a book myself before I can hand it off to him.
It also affects his social life. I have read that kids who are advanced readers have more life experience (although it is vicarious!) than kids who do not read as much. He interacts better with older kids and adults than he does with kids his own age. I had requested that he be moved up a grade level, but the school would not allow this.
The school's view is that their prime directive is to make sure all children meet a minimum standard. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. So, unless you have individual teachers who take an interest in your child, the child is left to drift.
As I said before, there was one teacher who was an absolute godsend! In a class of 30 students, she still managed to know each child and provide motivation and direction. I pointed this out to the principal, hoping it would earn this teacher some reward for her work and involvement. I was totally appalled when he stated that she was going above and beyond what she was contracted to do, and that because of that she was undermining the other teachers! I am only hoping she did not get chastised for it later!
She has since retired. I hope she got a nice retirement package because she actually earned it!
39. I understand a bunch of students in Snohomish County decided not to atke the WASL Iwonder if anyone else heard about this. I too wnder about Matt's loyalty to such a flawed test!!
Snohomish County has the highest number of students that opt-out. The story was in the Everett Herald
41. What is the procedure for opting out?
42. My sister opts out. All you need to do is inform the school in writing that you deny the school permission to administer the WASL test to your child. So a simple hand-written or typed note with your signature is all that is needed. Many pre-written forms are available online if you punch in "WASL opt out form" to any search engine.
43. Thanks, Sarah H.!
44. This just in from the Associated Press: There has been a major scoring error in Ohio that has effected thousands of students. It was just reported hours ago.
Also did any one else realize that NCS Pearson had another scoring error last month in Virginia that denied students their diplomas? I knew about the scoring error in Minnesota a few years ago. I wonder why this new error didn't make the news. I'm also wondering if there could have been a scoring error on my son's test. Boy, now I'm really wondering how accurate WASL is!
45. Which batch of students did it affect? One of my boys took the 10th grade WASL last year. He did pretty well. He has not exactly been a good student in the classroom, although he has done well on all of the standardized tests he has taken. Just curious if this could come back as mis-scored.
46. Sarah, it would be helpful if you could cut and paste the URL of the AP story you read so we can read it for ourselves. Thanks!
Sorry for the way my last post was written. I should clarify that it was Ohio's state test that was incorrectly scored by Education Measurements (I think that was the name of the scoring company, it was not Pearson). But NCS Pearson did have an incorrect scoring reported by the AP just last month, it was on Virginia's state test. The error denied diplomas to students that should have recieved them. There will be a class action law suit.
Pearson also had a major scoring error in Minnesota a few years ago (2002?). That error also denied students their diplomas. Minnesota paid out millions in a law suit.
Go back a little farther (in 2000?), and in New York City they fired teachers and sent thousands of children to summer school based on failing test scores. only to realize that there had been a scoring error, and the students didn't do so bad after all!
All of this was reported in the New York Times. I will have to go back and look up the date and title of the article if you are interested.
Here is a link to the Ohio story: http://www.onnnews.com/Global/story.asp?S=4236307
Sarah, thanks for the link.
This story is weird. The company scored only 1600 tests, inadvertently failing 890 students. Why would there only be 1600 test takers?
According to A Guide to the Ohio Graduation Tests, Ohio does indeed have statewide testing. The state-wide test scoring was done by NCS Pearson as recently as two years ago, and probably still is.
So what is this test, a local graduation requirement of one school district?
Those poor Ohioans.
49. It was a state-wide graduation test. This is the first year the test has been used. The reason so few students were tested is because this was a "make-up" testing period for students that missed the original testing schdule.
Here is another link: rehttp://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051213/NEWS0102/512130333/-1/allason
I see my link doesn't work.
Try this one: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051213/NEWS0102/512130333/-1/all
Much better article, Sarah. Informative, too.
It contradicts my statement that NCS Pearson scored these tests. Pearson must have had the contract for 6th grade only. Seems kind of inefficient to contract with different test scoring companies for different grades, but perhaps that makes sense in the long term.
I really don't see this issue as much of a problem, other than that a mistake was made, and many students, parents, and administrators were stressed and inconvenienced. I think I would like to examine Ohio's proficienty requirements and compare it to Washington State's essential learnings.
52. I don't have a lot of knowledge on what the content of the WASL consists of, other than what I've picked up from reading other comments and various news articles. However, if it's true that the WASL focuses heavily on writing skills, I'm in favor of that. It doesn't matter what you do in life (auto mechanic, engineer, business owner, etc.), good writing skills are an absolute necessity. What good is it to have great ideas and solutions to problems, if you can't communicate them? I work in engineering and I've been apalled at the horrendous writing skills of the new college hires. They may be technically adept, but they couldn't write a complete sentence if their life depended on it. I'm amazed that any university lets them out the door with such poor writing skills, regardless of the degree. Taking into account that plus some of the poor writing skills displayed by other commentators on this blog, I have come to the conclusion that an emphasis on good writing skills is a good thing for future high school graduates!
LMK, How many times do I have to say this?
Girls tend to write better than boys.
Fine! Let the girls show better in WASL/Writing. It's theirs. They own it.
But must the boys also be penalized in WASL/Reading, WASL/Math, and WASL/Science? How many times should they lose points for not writing as well as girls, on average?
What about the boys civil rights? Do you not see my point? It's about the children... all the children.
54. LMK: Of course writing skills are important. However, is it always preferable to explain a math or science concept through words? Aren't there instances where equations or diagrams would communicate an idea more clearly and concisely? Should a student be dinged because he or she prefers one mode of expression to another? Might there be a bias toward hiring scorers who have strong verbal skills but may be weaker in other areas?
Let me reverese the argument - should the standards for the physcial tests firemen have to pass be lowered because, on average, women tend to be less capable physically than men? You seem to be advocating the standards for writing skills be lowered because boys don't do as well. Either good writing skills are important or they're not, regardless of who can demonstrate them and who can't. If boys, by nature, are not as good at this skill, then the right answer is to come up with ways to target their gender and focus more heavily on teaching that skill.
Charts and graphs are certainly very useful and important in explaining technical subjects, but they can't stand alone. In every technical report and presentation I've been exposed to, words along with numbers and charts are needed as well. If the writer and/or presenter is poor at verbal/writing skills, the charts are not as effective as they could be. In addition, there are more aspects to a technical job then just technical things. Engineers, scientists, etc still have to write e-mails, proposals, letters, etc. that are part of their job, but not necessarily dealing with completely technical issues. If we are sending students out into the world without the foundation of solid writing and verbal skills, they are automatically handicapped regardless of how smart and capable they may be in math and science. You cannot separate them and I challenge anyone to present to me something technical that doesn't need some sort of verbage in addition to the numbers and figures to communicate the message.
I don't agree that math problems should be stated using words rather than numbers. But, I do feel that focusing more on writing skills (or call it communication skills ) is a good idea.
LMK: You are right that working in a technical field requires more than technical skills. However, I think verbal communication is addressed in the language portion of the test, and to a slightly lesser degree in the science section. Some of the WASL math problems do require a few words of explanation. In some of the others, equations should be fairly explanatory, however. A picture can paint a thousand words and save you writer's cramp! Sometimes you just don't need the embellishment of added words.
People within a work environment serve in different capacities. My husband had one coworker who was terrible at conveying his thoughts verbally - and he compensated by associating with people he knew could understand his ideas and translate them to management and sales. He was a very inventive guy and a real asset to the company, in spite of his communication deficit. A WASL-type test would not have reflected his strengths. It might have even erroneously shown him as weak in certain areas.
I am not saying that there is no room for written work in math problems. I just don't think written explanations are necessarily better or deserve more points than those expressed using numbers, symbols or diagrams. The WASL favors the written explanation.
LMK: Another thought just occurred to me. I'm guessing that most of the Asian and Indian immigrants who work in technology companies here were not hired primarily for their communication skills. I will venture further that these transplants probably communicate much better with their English speaking colleagues who are more adept at expressing themselves in nonverbal ways. Of course, it would be desireable to have employees who are skilled in all areas.
One time I had to help a 10-year-old boy (who spoke only Spanish) with a problem his teacher had given him. Not being fluent in Spanish, myself, I resorted to other means of communication (a diagram) that got the idea across and worked just fine!