Chairman Quall, Members of the Committee,
For the record, I am Juanita Doyon, director of Parent Empowerment Network. You have heard my testimony before, and you have heard many who agree with the views of my organization.
I have been gathering information and evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, concerning WASL and education reform, since 1993. I am not a professional educator, but I am an educated and informed parent. I witnessed the rise and fall of the A+ Commission. I testified many times before that body and witnessed the testimonies of all of the entities you have heard here in the past 3 weeks. We have all been saying the same things, ad nauseam to no avail. Here we are, at the brink of the cliff and it is still our children who will be the first to be pushed off by this draconian WASL mandate and all its proposed appendages.
Today, I am presenting my final testimony on all of the WASL bills before this House Education Committee and all that will come before you. There are two basic tenets of education policy that will continue to be breeched as long as a state-level assessment of students, in particular a graduation requirement, exists.
The legislature and state superintendent have every right and responsibility to monitor and assess local K-12 institutions and hold them accountable for state funding. However, when the state entered the field of direct student assessment to achieve its goal of system accountability, with the WASL, it overstepped its authority. With all due respect, the assessment of students and the judgment of their qualifications for graduation is the purview of the local community and their locally elected officials—their school boards!
By mandating a
state test, you have rendered all local decisions on curriculum and assessment
moot. Again, I quote Dr. Doug
The second issue I want to enter into the record today is that of equity, otherwise known as equal access. Judge Doran in his 1977 ruling found that “Once the state has defined a basic education program, the state must fully fund the program it has defined by means of dependable and regular tax sources. The Court found that a financial crisis does not change this constitutional duty of the state.”
When this body established a uniform bar of a state test for graduation, it positioned itself as the steward for all students. As such, PEN contends that this changed the definition of basic education. If basic education now means that all students must meet an arbitrary, state established WASL level, or any other state mandated “equally rigorous” measurement, it assumes the responsibility of fully funding all 296 school district to offer all students equal opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the state requirements, regardless of special needs, language barriers, family income, etc…
Doran called for equity for all students before WASL was ever conceived. This equity has never transpired. In fact, WASL has only magnified the inequity by imposing a uniform requirement absent uniform services. You have been unable to ensure equity, and, until you, the OSPI, and the districts are able to guarantee equitable services to all minorities, all majority students living in economically disadvantaged communities, and all students with special needs, you cannot legally impose a state level graduation performance bar.
Until the issues of local control and equity of services are addressed, no amount of tinkering will solve the WASL dilemma. Having no faith that the legislature will hear parents and teachers over the propaganda of the Washington Roundtable, Partnership for Learning, and OSPI, my organization will seek legal assistance and will pursue the goal of bringing an injunction to prevent the implementation of the WASL graduation requirement and prevent the linking of any other state level performance requirement to high school diplomas. We will be seeking the alliances of the NAACP, LULAC, National Council of La Raza, special education groups and others in this undertaking.
Juanita Doyon, Director
Parent Empowerment Network