WASL: A good idea gone bad
Ohanian Comment: Correction: It was never a good idea. But otherwise, good job.
"So many students are taking the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, at local high schools this spring that schools have given up trying to offer a normal schedule."
If that lead paragraph in a recent Enterprise news story doesn't illustrate the impact that the mania of standardized testing is having on public education, then nothing will.
The idea behind the WASL was admirable, but as with most good ideas, bad implementation can sour the entire process. The WASL is Washington's response to demands by state and federal lawmakers for more accountability from public education.
Accountability as a concept is a good thing. Public money is being spent to educate children, taxpayers have a reasonable expectation in knowing how -- and how effectively -- that money is being spent. Things started to go south when state legislators thought they could craft a law to meet that expectation without adequate involvement from professional educators.
Adding to the problem was the federal "No Child Left Behind Act." The title makes a good sound bite, but the details turned the words into an oxymoron. Instead of helping underperforming schools with needed resources, the act mandates fiscal punishment, the budgetary equivalent of a swat from the principal.
The result is a state law that assumes all children can be shoved through the same knothole of education measurement. As any parent of at least two children knows, all children are not the same. The folly of making such an assumption became apparent earlier this year with the realization by lawmakers that significant numbers of students weren't going to fit, and the rules had to change.
So, public education professionals are left to do their best in attaining the unattainable, leaving, as one local school administrator in the same Enterprise news story noted, "... 60 percent of a group of kids at a high school taking the test ...There are so many kids testing that teachers can't run class." Is that a better education?
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