[Susan notes: I cheered when I read this letter, nominating Carl Chew for Washington Teacher of the Year. We should all nominate Carl for National Teacher of the Year.]
Published in Whitman County Gazette
In the May 8th edition of the Gazette, Adele Ferguson sternly criticized Mr. Carl Chew of Seattle Public Schools for refusing to do the WASL.
Let me be the first to nominate Mr. Carl Chew for Washington's Teacher of the Year. He had the courage to refuse to administer the WASL because of all it failings and the very apparent damage it does to children. The WASL provides NO useful feedback to students, parents, or teachers. All that is reported is a grade--1 or 2, fail; 3 or 4, pass. To date the total cost of administering and grading the WASL exceeds one billion dollars. (Data furnished on request to writer.)
The WASL has been documented to have an adverse effect on children's psyche. At a recent dinner party a mother noted that her fourth grade daughter came home and said, "Mother, if I flunk the WASL will you still love me?" This is not an isolated case. On May 11, 2000 The Spokesman-Review showed a figure of a WASL monster drawn by a fourth grader that "eats children and gets stronger from their fear." You do not have to be a child psychologist to interpret those statements as being damaging.
And here in Whitman County, a teacher was called on the carpet by his principal and was threatened that he would be fired. Why? This teacher distributed information to other teachers and administrators to take a stand against the WASL. Ultimately The Northwest Professional Educators came to his rescue. A group of us was also invited to address the school board and other citizens about the WASL. The local district superintendent defused the situation.
There are at least four major technical problems with the WASL.
1. There is a large error or measurement. Thousands of students may fail or pass due to technical measurements used for the WASL.
2. The WASL is not valid. It is used to measure three attributes: student achievement, school accountability, and NCLB requirements. A valid test measures only one attribute.
3. Reliability of scoring shows that there have been numerous cases of scorer errors. The number of poorly scored tests could exceed thousands!
4. Many of the tests require reading at a very proficient level. Students who are English Language Learners and those in Special Education all have very significantly higher failure rates when measured against the cohort of WASL takers.
A dissertation completed by Michael Mack at WSU showed five important conclusions regarding the opinions of parents about the WASL. A majority of the parents do not believe that high-stakes testing: (1) is a fair way to determine a student's progress in school, (2) has improved their students' learning, (3) accurately reflects their students abilities, and (4) should be used to determine if a student will graduate from high school. Finally, a majority of parents believe that students should be able to retake high- stakes tests until students receive a passing score.
The current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Governor, the State Board of Education and the Legislature have all politely (or is it politically) ignored these issues.
Hopefully, 40,000 other teachers will join Carl Chew in refusing to administer an instrument of child abuse. Dump the WASL!
Don C. Orlich