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Fourth Grader Suspended for Failure to Finish WASL

Ohanian Comment: This one is so bizarre and so abusive it is almost beyond belief. Almost but not quite. It reveals the Standardista mindset, a belief that standards an assessments must triumph over the needs of an individual child. The principal refers to this 10-year-old's behavior as a particularly egregious wound. Surely, child advocates see the school's behavior as child abuse.

The irony here is that a Washington parent can opt a child out of taking this test. So Amanda Wolfe's son is suspended for not finishing a test he was not legally obliged to take.

And now for the true insanity of all this: Here's a paraphrase of the question:

Tyler paraphrases the question saying, "You look out one day at school and see your principal flying by a window. In several paragraphs write what happens next." He's asked, "So why didn't you answer that question?" He says, "I couldn't think of what to write the essay without making fun of the principal."

Why does the state of Washington consider the ability to write fantasy a necessary skill?
Writing experts who know children's developmental needs as well as pedagogoy warn that if you want to elicit best writing skills don't offer children fantasy. Fantasy is very difficult to control, and after an enthusiastic sentence or two, most children lose a grip on organization, coherence, whatever. There's the additional problem that many children, particularly boys, dislike fantasy, preferring nonfiction.

Most important of all, here's a little boy whose worry about making fun of his principal ties him up in such knots that he can't even approach the inappropriate topic. And now that very principal, about whose image he worried so, has suspended him.

According to a blogger , The superintendent wants Tyler immediately re-instated at school. But Tyler’s mother says the damage has been done. Mom tells son, "Well, nobody will scream at you again. I promise you that."

Scream at him? They screamed at a little boy that he must answer a whacko WASL writing prompt?

The superintendent needs to do more than reinstate Tyler.

The "Welcome Back" letter sent to parents last Fall tells the sad story of where the school's focus is:

About Us

Dear Central Park Families:
It’s almost here! September 7th, our first day of school, is only 3 weeks away! I have missed everyone throughout the summer, and look forward to working with all of our students and parents once again. Welcome to all of our new families. We look forward to getting to know you, and encourage you to call or stop by if you have any questions.

Central Park has a lot to celebrate this year. In addition to all of our day-to-day successes, our students performed at very high levels as measured by our state tests last spring! We are even featured on the district “Wall of Fame” for our terrific third and sixth grade math scores (83 and 85% respectively). On the fourth grade WASL, we improved in all areas, and are near 75% of all students meeting standard in reading and near 60% in math. This is a 13% increase in reading and nearly 30% in math. Wow! Way to go, Cougars!

We hope you have all had a great summer and are ready for the best school year ever! Our office is open daily now except September 3rd and 6th when we will be closed for the Labor Day weekend. Give us a call or drop on by. Our phone number is 538 – 2170. You’ll receive lots of information the first few days of school so check those backpacks and folders.

Olivia McCarthy



Date: May 11, 2005


Contacts: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent Empowerment Network/Mothers Against WASL, Spanaway, 253/973-1593

An Aberdeen School District 4th grader has been suspended from school for 5 days, following what the principal described as “blatant defiance and insubordination.” The student completed the WASL test but was unable to answer one of the essay questions on the Writing WASL. The student was suspended from May 9, 2005 to May 13, 2005.

During WASL testing, the student was directed, on six separate occasions, to complete the writing section. According to the student’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, her son did not understand how to respond the WASL writing topic. Ms. Wolfe was contacted by the school principal, with a request that she come to the school and direct her son to answer the question. Upon doing so, she found her son to be distressed because of the continued insistence of the teachers and principal that he must answer a question he did not understand.

According to Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction policy and RCW 28A.635.040, it is unlawful to “directly or indirectly assist a person to answer any question.” By interfering with the testing process and directing the student on “six separate occasions” to answer the specific question, school staff violated this law.

In a letter to Ms. Wolfe, the principal of Central Park School, Olivia McCarthy, states that the consequence of the student’s “decision” not to answer the WASL task is a “particularly egregious wound” to other students and the school.

Ms. Wolfe states that her son “is a very good student and has never been in trouble before. He gets very good grades and is above his fourth grade average.”

“This situation is one more demonstration of WASL insanity. The test has taken over our schools and has, unfortunately, done away with good sense on the part of many administrators,” said Juanita Doyon, organizer of Mothers Against WASL and director of the newly formed nonprofit Parent Empowerment Network. “I am so glad Ms. Wolfe has found our organization. It is time for parents to join together and rise up against these appalling violations of student and parent rights that are taking place around the state.”

Ms. Wolfe previously asked to see her son’s completed WASL test and was denied her parental right to do so. She has now cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and has formally made the request to see her son’s WASL test.
Central Park School
601 School Road
Aberdeen, WA 98520

May 6, 2005

Dear Ms. Wolfe:

After much thought and after carefully weighing several factors, I have reached the following decision: Tyler is suspended from attendance at Central park school for a period of five (5) days beginning Monday, May 9, 2005 through Friday, May 13, 2005. This decision has been reached for the following reasons: Tyler refused, on six separate occasions, to comply with a reasonable request made by his teachers, myself, and even you, his parent. In schools, when a teacher or other staff member gives a direction or a request to perform, a student is expected to do so. In other instances where students have simply refused, consequences have been imposed. The fact that Tyler chose to simply refuse to work on the WASL after many reasonable requests is none other than blatant defiance and insubordination. Therefore, a reasonable consequence is a short-term suspension.

Unfortunately, the consequences of Tyler's decision do not end with this disciplinary action. Not only will his achievement be misrepresented on the highest stakes measure of academic performance he has met to date, but the scores of his classmates will also be invalid. As he chose NOT to perform, he will get a zero on that section, which will be averaged with the scores of all of the other students in his class: in this case, 10 other children. Obviously, a ‘0’, when averaged with only 10 other scores, can drastically impact the ‘average’. Thus, he has compromised the representation of what his peers know and are able to do. Their scores will be reported as a group, not as individuals. Additionally, this extends to the whole fourth grade, as our school score, the one that is reported to the state and the media, is an average of all fourth grade students. Thus, his choice impacts Tyler, his classmates, his grade mates, and his school. As we have worked so hard this year to improve our writing skills, this is a particularly egregious wound.

You have the right to an informal conference with me concerning this suspension, pursuant to WAC 180-40-280. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at 538-2170.


Olivia McCarthy, Principal

CC: Marty Kay, Superintendent

Tita Mallory, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

Barb Jones, Fourth Grade teacher

Shawn Sanford, Fourth Grade teacher

— Juanita Doyon
Parent Empowerment Network/Mothers Against WASL




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