HEADLLINES for April 14, 2006, Moscow Pullman Daily News
Students won't answer WASL survey; State
reverses itself after parents, activists raise questions
By E. Kirsten Peters
Daily News staff writer
Grassroots activism triumphed over government bureaucracy this week
with the cancellation of the survey portion of mandatory exams in public
schools across Washington state.
Last month, the Parent Empowerment Network and the
Mothers Against the WASL, both grassroots parent
organizations, objected to a new section of survey questions inserted in the
test booklets of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Known as the
WASL, the standardized exam is being taken by all third through eighth- and 10th-graders
in the state this month.
The additional pages included survey questions asking students
about their personal and family life. Answers to the questions were to have
been stored in computer databases, along with a student's name and WASL scores.
state superintendent of public instruction, on Thursday issued a memo to state
schools directing exam proctors not to administer the survey questions.
The questions will be in the WASL test booklets because
they already have been printed, but students will be told not to fill them out.
"We've had a number of parents concerned about the survey," said
Pullman Superintendent Tom Rockefeller. "Now we'll get the information to
the proctors that nobody should fill out the survey pages."
Juanita Doyen, head of the Mothers Against the WASL, expressed only partial satisfaction with Bergeson's decision.
"This whole matter is just
another example of OSPI failing to follow basic federal guidelines and wasting
millions of dollars on these type of efforts to
profile individual students," she said in a telephone interview from
western Washington. "OSPI has been saying that parent
concerns about the survey were 'just silly.' I'm glad the real story got out,
but what we really need to do is dismantle the WASL itself."
Last month OSPI defended the survey questions, which asked questions ranging from how much time is spent playing
electronic games to whether parents help with homework. It issued a statement
saying local school districts valued the information given to them by such
survey data. In an informal poll of school superintendents and principals in
eastern Whitman County, none could be found who made any
significant use of any survey information provided to them by the state.
Thursday's directive from Bergeson did not elaborate
on the decision to withdraw the questions.
Although OSPI issues prepared statements to the public on many
topics on a weekly basis, the office did not publicly announce the change in
policy that it sent to school districts.
"But we are doing our best to bring it
all to light," Doyen said.
E. Kirsten Peters can be reached at (509) 334-6397, ext. 310, or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.