March 22, 2006, Moscow Pullman Daily News

OUR VIEW: WASL survey must be scrapped
Steve McClure, for the edit board




Quick, call the Department of Ecology.

Someone send a cleanup crew over to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in
Olympia and clean out the air ducts. There must be something funky growing in the HVAC system, and it's starting to affect the workers.

That's the only possible explanation for the state's decision to tack on a bunch of survey questions to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning that go way beyond what the state school's chief needs to know.

The test has been buried under controversy for several years now, and that's likely to increase this spring when 10th graders have to pass the test in order to stay on track toward graduation. Apparently it wasn't controversial enough, though, so the "educrats" in
Olympia tacked on a bunch of questions to learn whether a child's parents are educated and how much time is spent in front of the television.

The state says it's just responding to requests from school districts.

But local school officials say that's not the case, and many are scratching their heads wondering who decided this information was necessary.

Parents, meanwhile, are rightly upset the state is asking questions that do not measure academic performance and, frankly, are none of the state's business.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, with its inability to cope with legitimate criticisms of its vaunted test, has taken the admirable goal of raising academic standards and turned it into a frightening example of state government run amok.

Since school officials don't seem to understand why the survey questions are included, there really are only a couple possible explanations for
Olympia's actions.

The bureaucrats in Olympia are either devising a series of excuses to toss about when a good chunk of the state's children don't pass the test, or the people running the state superintendent's office believe they have ultimate parental authority over Washington's school children and need to know what those pesky surrogates that provide room and board are doing.