In The Columbian 06/22/05

Opposition to WASL far from fading


Juanita Doyon, Director

Parent Empowerment Network, a nonprofit organization

(Mothers Against WASL is a project of Parent Empowerment Network)


If WASL foes are merely a “lingering” presence (Columbian, 6/15/05), why do the  editorial boards of every major newspaper in the state find it necessary to spout the propaganda and ram the agenda of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Washington Roundtable, as if they were inarguably legitimate?  Where is the responsibility to taxpayers, for instance, in the Columbian’s support of WASL ($72 per student) over Iowa Test of Basic Skills ($2.99 per student)?


WASL opposition is growing and progressing.  Thanks to unrelenting activism by Mothers Against WASL and others, parents are finally being allowed to see their children’s tests.  For eight years, the state superintendent denied access, until parents cited federal law (FERPA).  This is a particularly important gain, because Riverside publishing and Pearson Educational Measurement, developers and scorers of WASL, have made mistakes several times during WASL's tenure.  In other states that employ these same companies we find more insidious errors; graduations missed, jobs lost, lives disrupted.  A father in Minnesota found an error which translated to 47,000 misgraded tests and a $12,000,000 lawsuit settlement.


Currently, Parent Empowerment Network is working to halt the shredding of

tests.  The superintendent’s office has refused to answer questions about the storage and sharing of student test results.


Under WASL law, what was once the charge of local school boards, teachers and parents is now the responsibility of the state superintendent, the business roundtable and test development companies.  Do we really trust these entities to educate our children and determine their future?


Educating a child requires that teachers be respected as professionals.  School buildings must be in good repair and not overcrowded.  WASL does nothing to address any of these requirements.  WASL ignores parental rights and responsibility, sucks resources from schools, removes the profession from teaching and implants scripted, standardized lessons.  WASL has driven foundational curriculum and, yes, memorization of math facts, out of elementary classrooms.  It is pushing teachers of music, art, history and technical courses out of our junior highs and high schools.


WASL validity and reliability are extremely suspect.  Its use as a high-stakes test ignores acceptable testing procedure and WASL’s own technical report, which warns, “Scores from one test given on a single occasion should never be used to make important decisions about students' placement, the type of instruction they

receive, or retention in a given grade level in school.” 


In his March 15, 2005 report on 5th grade science and 7th grade math WASLs from 2004, Dr. Donald Orlich reveals that these tests are developmentally inappropriate.  The superintendent’s testing staff has not disputed Dr. Orlich’s report. 


National testing experts Gerald Bracey, David Berliner and James Popham have all spoken against the use of WASL as a high-stakes test.  Washington State School Directors Association, Washington Education Association, National PTA, American Educational Research Association, American Association of School Administrators and others share our position. One test should never be used to determine the future or placement of a child, the funding of a school or the quality of teaching. WASL is slated to determine all of these things.

Lawmakers and editorial boards need to think critically and pay attention to all voices in the WASL debate.  Simply swallowing and regurgitating the propaganda of the state superintendent and the Washington Roundtable is not responsible leadership or journalism.

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