April 17, 2006


Dear Public School Principals and Teachers,


As a statewide, nonprofit organization, Parent Empowerment Network represents the interests of a growing number of parents, teachers, and students throughout Washington. Our goal is to improve the communication and understanding between home and school and assist parents in advocating for their children in public schools.


It is in the spirit of improved communication and understanding that we ask public school principals and teachers to do all that is in their power to simply accept the decision of parents to opt their children out of WASL without subjecting either the student or parent involved to any form of coercion or enticement, or deception as to the worth of WASL.


There is no doubt that WASL is a controversial and unproven test. It was not designed for the purpose of placing students in programs or determining graduation. (Please see WEA survey results and OSPI technical reports.) Yet, it is being misused to place students and determine graduation.


Many parents do not want their children to be exposed to what has been proven to be an inappropriate test. (Please see Orlich and Willhoft research.) Parents do not take their decision to opt out of WASL lightly. They realize that the school will receive a zero for their student’s score, which will be averaged into the score that is put in the paper for “all the world” to see. However, parents, like teachers, know that there are far better ways to determine the quality of student work, schools, and teachers than standardized test scores. Parents rely on teacher-graded, daily work and tests to determine how their children are progressing academically. Parents rely on the attitudes of their children toward school to know how they are progressing socially and emotionally. WASL inhibits progress in all of these areas.


Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. They do not give up that right or responsibility when they entrust their children to the care and teaching of the public school. Each child in Washington State has the legal right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Many parents believe that WASL is getting in the way of a FAPE for their children.


Members of PEN understand that great pressure to improve test scores is placed on school employees by the state and federal government. However, we ask that school employees remember that it is parental tax dollars that pay for schools and for the salaries of school employees. When the state or federal government gets in the way of good communication and good decisions on the part of schools and families, it is essential that local adults use their own good judgment in communicating with each other for the good of children.


Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.



Juanita Doyon, Director

Parent Empowerment Network