Any parent who has more than one child has experienced the diversity in children.  Teachers are faced with a wide diversity in their classrooms ... maturity levels, developmental skills, economic levels, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles.


Last night I GOOGLED "learning styles" on the Internet. 

89 pages of Internet sites came up. More than 880 sites on ONE topic.... Learning diversity!  Where is the learning diversity in the climate of our schools today?


The WASL is using ONE tool to assess ALL children the same;  in essence it is trying to put EVERY child into the same proverbial BOX!  NOT all children are the same. There are Visual learners, Auditory learners, and Kinesthetic learners.  These same descriptions are what is used to describe the different forms of DYSLEXIA.  The study done by our Federal Government in 1998 determined the estimated population of ANY random population school is one in five, and possibly as many as one in four children are affected by some form of Dyslexia.  Scientists have identified which part of the brain is affected by dyslexia AND that it is on a dominant gene.  This means we are a GROWING population.  The scary statistic of the US Govt. study is that LESS than 10% of public school teachers in the United States even KNOW what it is!  This may have changed some in the past few years with Dyslexia being addressed on the FRONT covers of Newsweek, Fortune magazine and segments on 20/20.  I HOPE that's true, but it certainly hasn't been my experience in dealing with parents who are desperate for help with their dyslexic children and the teachers they are having to deal with.  I am sought out by parents from all around our country.... Not just here in Washington.  I help them understand their children because I AM one.  I grew up in the Seattle schools.  I lived the misery of not knowing what was "WRONG" with me that I had challenges others didn't seem to.  I couldn't remember my multiplication tables. I had a difficult time learning to read and form letters for writing.


 I didn't enjoy reading until I was a Junior in high school when my teacher handed me "The Adventures of Huck Finn."  After that was "The Old Man and the Sea" and she showed me what symbolism in writing was.  The next year, I signed up for FOUR classes from her because she captured my spirit with her teaching talent.  Her name is Janet Pfeiffer.  I will be forever in her debt, and she doesn't even know it.  I will never be able to thank her enough for what she did for me.  She inspired me.


We used to be taught to "celebrate the differences" and learned acceptance of those who weren't like us.   Our teachers USED to have time to offer help to those children who needed the extra help and maybe a different method of learning.  I know this because I lived it. I had teachers who worked hard to lift me to their expectations and earn a passing grade in their classes, but that was long before the WASL took over our schools.  


Teachers are now teaching with their hands tied by the WASL.  They are having to teach to ONE standard ... the WASL!  They can no longer take time to work with children as individuals.  Their teaching talents are no longer needed ... they are consumed by their focus on the WASL and the scores they can produce.  They are mandated that the scores are NOW what REALLY matters.... NOT the individual child.  How sad. 


WASL is ONE standard for a diversity of our children.  When people talk about the WASL, they say they want "higher standards"........ NOT standard!   WASL is ONE tool for assessing children ... only ONE!  Not to mention that it is a "test" given on only certain days of a child's life.  It compacts 12 years of education into one small capsule.  It does NOT show many things of value to prove a child's abilities and skills.  


Last week, you had a woman testify before you telling of a young, Native American boy who answered a question about naming the seasons.  Instead of answering spring, summer, fall and winter ... his answer was Hunting, Fishing, and Fireworks.  I thought that was a wonderful answer.... clever and it reflected his life.. his reality, his influences, maybe even his passions, and maybe what his life will always be.  Would that be so bad?  Does that meet the "standard" for the WASL?  I don't know .... But I DO know it shouldn't hold him from not getting a Diploma...a REAL Diploma, not an "almost as good as" substitute Diploma.  It may not be the accepted answer for a standard test, but it possibly showed his motivation, interests, creativity, resilience, enthusiasm, and even maybe humor.  How would we know this from a "test?"


Multi-measurements ARE needed for a more complete picture of what determines a child as Diploma-worthy in our state.  Washington, even more than many other states, has a very diverse population in our melting pot nation.  I grew up on Queen Anne Hill...... my classroom in 6th. grade had EVERY different kind of diversity ... Japanese, Native American, African American, Jewish, a Dutch girl who couldn't speak English, Hispanic, Chinese, smart kids, children with Dyslexia and more. I love having had that exposure in my life.  We had 32 kids in that class, and I can still name you every child in that classroom ... not that I will.


I had an awesome teacher.  Miss Veronica Barrett ... probably the hardest teacher in the STATE I thought at the time.  But......... she reached ALL of us with her talents and by her passion for teaching. 


I'm SURE I could tell you what SHE would have thought of the WASL ... but I'm also sure YOU can probably guess.  She would have taken you all out in the hall, grabbed you by the shoulders and spoken to you in a way that only SHE could.... and tell you that there IS NO such thing as a "Standard" child.  


Last week, I was here to speak before you.  When I was finished, I was asked to be interviewed on camera by one of the local news stations.  When the interview was over, one of our House Representatives interrupted to ask the newsperson if THEY could be interviewed, saying, "Don't you want to speak to a REPUBLICAN?"  I was shocked.  I didn't know this was a party issue ... and the newsperson said HE didn't either.  THIS is an issue for ALL of us.  THIS is the future of our children and the future for ALL of us as they move out into the world and touch our lives with theirs ... whatever position they may choose to take for their lives. Paths cross, lives interact with others, we all touch...... it's how our society works.


My group, Parent Empowerment Network is a group of ALL political stands. We are a group of PARENTS ... of all colors, stripes, and diversity.  Our ONE common denominator is concern for our children.  We want our children to experience the JOY we had in school, balanced with the struggle of learning.  You lawmakers hold the power to bring back the joy of teaching and learning to our schools.  More WASL isn't the way!


I would HOPE that the lawmakers before me today would consider the extreme concerns of the parents, teachers and children of our State, BEFORE <to ME> the questionable interest of the Business community.


Starbucks Cup:  The Way I See It #61

"Imagine we are all the same.

Imagine we agree about politics, religion, and morality.

Imagine we like the same types of music, art, food, and coffee.

Imagine we all look alike.

Sound boring?

Differences need not divide us. 

Embrace diversity.

Dignity is everyone's human right.

Bill Brummel (Documentary filmmaker) His films focus on human rights issues.


WASL is stripping the dignity of our children by holding them to ONE standard ... one mold, one hurdle to jump for a Diploma in our state.  It is our human right to be who we are and strive to be the best we can be ... at our own pace, with our own talents, and our own diverse learning style.  Dyslexia isn't a choice.  It IS a learning challenge with it's pro's and con's.  Often the only way a dyslexic child stays engaged in school is through sports, art, or another creative outlet.  These are the things which we commonly excel in.  But these are also the things leaving our schools because there is limited funding and WASL is the sole focus. Scores, not children!  Dyslexic students are having to take MORE WASL-izing instead of these kinds of classes which make our talents rise to the surface and feed our spirits a diet of JOY.  


I would encourage you to learn about what affects approximately ONE QUARTER of our children... DYSLEXIA.... BEFORE you choose to continue imposing the ONE standard, WASL, on our schools.  Limit the money spent on WASL and find Washington based programs to implement in our schools to help the dyslexic population reach the goals and standards you ... and THEY... would like to achieve in their educational path.  And JUST so you know..... Dyslexics don't want to be molded into a one size box!  We don't want to change who we are... we can't if we wanted to anyway.  Our brains won't let us.  We LIKE who we are.  We like the way our minds work.  We have talents that will never fit inside of a box.  We DO need help to overcome the challenges in learning, but we DO eventually learn ... in our own style and at our own pace. 


Multi-measurements [HB 2923] only makes sense for the best interest for our children ... to give a more complete picture of our children's abilities.  I hope I have encouraged you to consider approving this Bill before you and in doing that, also consider changing the 2008 date to 2014 when the mandates for NCLB are set.    



Rachel DeBellis

Parent Empowerment Network, Executive Board Member

International Dyslexia Association, Member

and proud member of Mothers Against WASL



"The mediocre teacher tells. 
           The good teacher explains.
                        The superior teacher demonstrates. 
                                                   The great teacher inspires."
William Arthur Ward