[Susan notes: Although this letter is to a Washington senator, the issues it addresses are national.]
Dear Senator Johnson,
Good for you, for questioning the validity of WASL. Now is the time! It would be foolish, wasteful and cruel to ever allow or require students to retake WASL more than once, even if it is determined to be valid by the State Board. It would be nice if districts had their choice in whether to use WASL or ITBS in the testing of their students. If they were to receive the cost difference to spend as they wished, we can guess which test they would choose.
As you may know, I have been questioning the validity and the use of the WASL since it began. I am extremely concerned that the legislature has continued to back this expensive, harmful test, which brands the majority of our children "sub-standard." The use of one test for graduation determination is invalid in itself. To use WASL as that test simply heaps injustice upon injustice.
Iowa is using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to fulfill NCLB requirements. They are setting a cut score, so that it will be a criterion rather than norm referenced grading process. They are not planning a high school exit exam, as
far as I know. NCLB does not require an exit exam.
Though I oppose the No Child Left Behind legislation, as an abuse of federal power, until that legislation is changed or overturned, it would make a lot of sense to fulfill the law with a more reasonable, more cost effective measure
As far as "upper level thinking skills," which the WASL purports to assess, these should be encouraged and assessed by local teachers and parents, not by the state. When children are taught the foundational skills and knowledge they
need, then they mature to be critical thinkers and contributing citizens.
Local adults know this. You and I know this. When provided the resources, local adults are able to reach nearly all children and educate them to their potential. The accountability system from the state should be one of checks and
balanced, not of micromanagement. WASL, in all its intricacies and inappropriate demands on children and teachers, requires micromanagement and state level hand-holding of districts and schools. OSPI must return to balance as a
service agency as well as a monitoring agency.
You may be aware that WASL costs $72 per 10th grader. In a public forum Thursday evening, Terry Bergeson told the audience that WASL costs $32 per student. I wonder if she knows the true figure herself. I received it from OSPI through a Public Disclosure request.
In my campaign for state superintendent, I am studying the Nebraska system of accountability. Nebraska maintains local control of public schools and respects local school boards. Local districts adopt both state and local standards
and then present a yearly portfolio of "proof" of success, including standardized testing data, as chosen by the district. The validity of this "proof" is determined by the state superintendent's office. If you would like more
information about this, please let me know.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate the work you do.
candidate, Superintendent of Public Instruction