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In Our View - A Better Test: Opponents of the WASL are losing clout

Mothers Against WASL leader Juanita Doyon comments:We've had too many successes to suit the hierarchy here in the Evergreen State. The newspapers are really fighting us. Here's the latest tripe from Vancouver, WA. Coincidentally, I was holding a meeting down there as they were typesetting this last night. I'm writing the editors requesting a 600 word op ed rebuttal. By getting ITBS removed (it has been used as a low stakes test here), there will be nothing to compare the whacko WASL to now. So, the state super is overjoyed!

The closer Washington state educators come to replacing the national Iowa Tests of Basic Skills with the state Washington Assessment of Student Learning, the wiser that decision becomes.

On Monday, state officials released the latest round of scores on the Iowa test, from which two conclusions can be drawn:

* On a national scale, our teachers are doing a better job of teaching, and our students are doing a better job of learning. Third- and sixth-grade students scored above the national average, ranging from the 55th percentile for sixth-graders in reading to the 66th percentile for third-graders in math.

Anything new? Not really. Those scores have been about the same for the past five years. Mere numbers? Perhaps, but the scores prove proficiency, and of that Washingtonians should be proud.

* This week's news about Iowa test scores is a reminder that taking tests is nothing new for our children. Their familiarity with tests should dissolve any fears of moving from the Iowa test to the WASL. Replacing the Iowa test with the WASL is necessary because it's mandated by law. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to test students in third through eighth grades and one grade in high school. But on another level, it's a smart move because the WASL includes more subjects than the Iowa test.

And requiring students to pass the 10th-grade WASL in order to receive a 12th-grade diploma is perfectly reasonable, especially when considering the chance for up to four retakes and the many remediation offerings.

As The Columbian's Margaret Ellis reported Tuesday, most educators fully embrace the WASL. Jane Arends, director of assessment and research for Vancouver School District, said: "The WASL is much more consistent with our focus of personalizing learning and higher-order achievement. It's got more room in it for some reasoning and problem solving some thinking, and not those things that can be memorized."

And Bruce Kelley, director of school improvement with the Battle Ground School District, said: "I don't think the Iowa test was a bad test, but it doesn't test our state requirements, so it kind of tested the kids in a sideways manner instead of what they're supposed to be learning.

It's time for any lingering WASL foes to concede to progress and accept reality.

— Editorial
The Columbian


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