Sunday, April 20, 2008

Teacher Refuses to Administer WASL

From a press release

SEATTLE TEACHER REFUSES TO ADMINISTER WASL TEST TO STUDENTS, CITING MULTIPLE HARMS TEST CAUSES STUDENTS, TEACHERS, SCHOOLS, AND PARENTS

Date: April 20, 2008

Contact: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent Empowerment Network, Spanaway, 253/973-1593
Carl Chew, Seattle Teacher, 206-265-1119 email ctchew@earthlink.net

Carl Chew, a 6th grade science teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in the Seattle School District, last week defied federal, state, and district regulations that require teachers to administer the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to students.

“I have let my administration know that I will no longer give the WASL to my students. I have done this because of the personal moral and ethical conviction that the WASL is harmful to students, teachers, schools, and families,” wrote Chew in an email to national supporters.

School District response to Mr. Chew’s refusal was immediate. After administrative attempts to dissuade his act of civil disobedience had failed, at the start of school on the first day of WASL testing, April 15, Mr. Chew was escorted from the school by the building principal and a district supervisor. Mr. Chew was told to report to the district Science Materials Center where he was put to work preparing student science kits while district administration and attorneys consulted on an appropriate penalty for what was labeled, “gross insubordination.”

Mr. Chew attended one hearing at Seattle School District Office, where he was accompanied by a Seattle Education Association representative. On Friday, April 18, Mr. Chew received a letter from Seattle School District Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson which began, "This letter is to inform you that I have determined that there is probable cause to suspend you from April 21, 2008 through May 2, 2008 without pay for your refusal and insubordination to your principal's written direction to administer the WASL at Eckstein Middle School."

During his weeklong struggle with the district over consequences, Mr. Chew was supported by allies throughout the state and nation. “Carl Chew is saying ‘No!’ to high stakes testing and a resounding ‘Yes!’ to student needs and to teacher professionalism,” stated nationally renowned education activist and author Susan Ohanian of Vermont.

“There are many more teachers who are ready to follow suit. They just need an example and leader,” states one Washington teacher.

Organizations and individual allies are now working to replace Mr. Chew’s lost wages. “Though a minor gesture in response to your so much larger gift, I plan to contribute to your salary for the two-weeks the schools aren't paying,” was the response of one colleague from Washington.

Parent Empowerment Network will be presenting Mr. Chew with a check for $200 to help alleviate his loss of wages and is encouraging organization members to also support Mr. Chew with words of encouragement and monetary contributions. The Vermont Society for the Study of Education and Colorado’s Coalition for Better Education have also pledged contributions.


The following is a full statement of Mr. Chew’s reasoning for his refusal to administer the WASL.

On April 15 I refused to give the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to my 6th grade students at a Seattle Public Schools middle school. I performed this single act of civil disobedience based on personal moral and ethical grounds, as well as professional duty. I believe that the WASL is destructive to our children, teachers, schools, and parents.

It is important for me to note that my disobedient action was not directed at any individual. I love being a teacher; my students are fantastic; my fellow teachers collaborate with and help me every day in numerous ways; and my school administration has always shown a willingness to listen to and support the teachers. I understand that my action has caused people pain, and I am truly sorry for that, but I could no longer stand idly by as something as wrong as the WASL is perpetrated on our children year after year.

Though my act of civil disobedience was individual, I do not stand alone in my strong beliefs. Any Internet search for high stakes testing will reveal highly regarded educators, distressed parents, and sensitive teachers with a wealth of thoughtful writing and case studies supporting my views.

The WASL is bad for kids.

To my mind the measure of successful childhood is that each child learns about who she or he is and how the world works, gains an assertive and confident self image, and feels safe, well fed, and happy. Schools, along with parents and communities, need to contribute wisely to this goal. Unfortunately, the WASL creates panic, insecurity, low self esteem, and sadness for our children.
o It is written in the language of White, middle and upper class students, leaving all others behind.
o It is presented to children in a secretive, cold, sterile, and inhumane fashion.
o There is no middle ground—children either pass or fail—which leaves them confused, guilty, and frustrated.
o Numerous questions on the test are unclear, misleading, or lacking in creativity.
o It tests a very narrow definition of what educators know children need to become well-rounded human beings.
o The WASL is given at a prescribed time regardless of a child’s emotional or physical health.

The WASL is bad for teachers.

For meager pay teachers are asked to work in extremely challenging situations, keep absurdly long hours, and, when it comes to the WASL, function in an atmosphere of fear.
o A majority of teachers loath the WASL but feel unable to speak out freely against it due to their fears of negative consequences for doing so.
o Because administrators are constantly pushing to meet federal guidelines for yearly score improvements, their relationships with teachers can become strained and unpleasant.
o Administrators and teachers suffer under the knowledge that if they do not achieve improvement goals (measured by WASL passage alone) they can be sent to retraining classes, lose their students to other schools, or have their “failing” school handed over to a private company.
o Before administering the WASL teachers mandatorily sign a “loyalty” oath promising they will not read any of the test questions.
o Teachers feel devalued by the amount of time most of them have to devote to test practice and proctoring—upwards of four weeks for actual testing and many more weeks for WASL prep in many cases.
o Teachers feel used and depressed when, half a year after the test is given, they are presented with dubious WASL results—amateurish and misleading Power Point charts and graphs telling them next to nothing about their students’ real knowledge and talents.
o Teachers’ relationships with parents are compromised because they cannot talk freely with them about opting their child out or other WASL concerns.


The WASL is bad for parents and families.

o Parents have been shut out of this costly process.
o Most of them are misled by official statements about what the purpose of the WASL is.
o Many of them do not realize that they have the right to opt their children out of testing with no consequences, though in practice schools have illegally put inappropriate pressure on parents and children who have opted out.
o Many of them do not realize that teachers are, in many cases, not allowed to discuss any reasons why they might want to opt their child out. (Teachers in California went to court to secure the right to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of that state’s testing.)
o Like children, parents suffer from the same feelings of guilt and unhappiness when their children fail.
o Parents are not informed that the test is biased, culturally insensitive and irrelevant, and not a real measure of anything.
o The WASL graduation requirement has kept thousands of families from knowing whether or not their students will be allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies and celebrations—the culminating reward for 13 years of public school attendance and achievement-- with friends and families.

The WASL is bad for schools.

Even in the best of times purse strings are rarely opened adequately to public education. Where a private school needs to charge $20,000-$30,000 to educate a child well, public schools are given a third or less of that for each student. Simply, schools are strapped for cash, many of them struggling each year to fund their needs with an ever shrinking pot of money.
o While schools are generally underfunded, Washington will spend a projected $56 million in 2009 to have a private corporation grade WASL tests. These tax dollars are needed right in our schools providing more teachers, smaller classes, tutors, and diverse educational experiences for our students.
o While the federal government requires that school districts use high stakes testing to qualify for federal dollars, tests are not fully funded by the federal government.
o WASL is one of the most difficult tests used to fulfill the federal requirements, with one of the highest failure rates.
o Instead of safe, exciting, and meaningful places for our children to spend half of their waking hours, schools have become WASL or test mills bent on churning out students who are trained to answer state-approved questions in a state-approved manner.

The WASL is just bad.

o Most, if not all, teachers will agree that assessment is vital. Wise teachers know that assessments which are also learning experiences for students and teachers are the best. The WASL categorically is not a learning experience.
o I believe that individual students are entitled to their own learning plans, tailored to their own needs, strengths, and interests. Teachers know it is definitely possible to do this in the context of a public school. The WASL categorically treats all children alike and requires that they each fit into the same precise mold, and state-mandated learning plans based on WASL scores fail to recognize individual strengths of students.
o Passing the WASL does not guarantee success in college, placement in a job, a living wage, or adequate health care.
o WASL will decrease the high school graduation rate. Thousands of students who have completed all other requirements and passed all required classes will be denied diplomas because of WASL failure.
o High-stakes testing has not proven beneficial to students, teachers, schools, or communities.

In the real lives of students, teachers, and parents the WASL is an ongoing disaster.

o When I was a teacher at Graham Hill Elementary in Seattle, a number of my students received their WASL scores to find that they had “failed”. When I looked at the notices being sent to their parents I saw that each student had come to within just a few points of actually passing and that their scores were well within the grey area, or “margin of error,” for the test. The “test scientists” aren’t sure whether the student passed or failed, yet the school tells the student he or she failed. These students cried when they saw the results.
o When I first started teaching, Graham Hill could afford Americorps tutors, numerous classroom aides, and had money for fieldtrip busses and ample supplies. By the time I stopped teaching there, Americorps was gone, there were no classroom aides except for parent volunteers, and everything else was in short supply.
o Teaching and testing during my last year at Graham Hill was challenging. I was on my own in a room with 29 students, 10% did not speak English, 50 % of them spoke another language at home, several of them were homeless, and many of them had severe emotional challenges due to parental pre-natal drug use, violence, and abuse.
o No one ever asked me or any of the teachers I know whether high stakes testing was a good idea. In fact, we teachers are made to jump through seemingly endless hoops to prove our worthiness to be professional, certificated educators. Public school teachers are responsible for the educational lives of over a million students in Washington State, yet, in the end, no one actually wants to listen to what teachers have to say about what is best for the students in our care.

33 comments:

Ad hoc said...

I despise the WASL. I think it is the biggest waste of time, energy and resources imaginable.

At least my kids don't get stressed out about it. I tell them not to worry about it, at all. It has no consequences for them. It doesn't affect their grade, their ability to get promoted to the next grade, nothing. I tell them that however they do on the WASL, it really doesn't matter. I would opt them out, actually, except I feel for our school having to take the 0, and pay their consequences to the district, and parents who may not choose our great school if the WASL scores drop. Of course, I know my attitude will have to change in High school, where as of now, WASL is a graduation requirement. My hope is that by the time my child gets to HS, No Child Left Behind will fade, along with Bush, and maybe our district will re-evaluate high stakes testing.

That's not my attitude toward meaningful assessment! My kids study and prepare for their classroom tests, portfolio night, science fair, band concerts. All of the meaningful assessment that happen in their classroom every day, just not the WASL.

As for a standardized test being geared toward a white, middle class, I'm not sure what to make of that?? A standardized test has to be taken by every student in the district so how could that be accomplished if it is not geared it toward the middle of the spectrum? Do you offer a low income test? A Latino test? An ADD test? Different tests for different groups?

classof75 said...

The year we decided to change schools, we had a principal who then was transferred to Graham Hill. The weak leadership of this principal was the final straw in our decision.

My child had been in special education for learning disabilities, also while at this school she received the lowest score possible on WASL, yet because her resource time was not spent addressing her disability, we removed her from her so-called IEP.
After changing schools , she was enrolled in a school based program to help students pass WASL which she did, receiving 4's & high 3's on all areas of the test.
I don't like the WASL anymore than the next parent, but I also have seen evidence that if we give focused instruction, we can see students over this hurdle.

Josh said...

I know Carl and I know he always has the interest of his students in mind. He's a skilled and thoughtful educator, and, whether we agree or not, we should consider his words. They come from a place of compassion and reflection.

old salt said...

Mr. Chew is my daughter's science teacher. He is one of those teacher's she will always remember. His class is creative, engaging and rigorous.

I support his stand on this. I don't mind testing or even standardized testing. I can't stand the WASL. It is very expensive & very time consuming & we get almost no useful information from it. I get really annoyed by the vague, subjective questions.

I have friend who is a psychiatrist that works with children. He sees many kids who come in with anxiety issues surrounding the WASL. He thinks that the test is developmentally inappropriate for elementary school children.

Maureen said...

I remember Carl from Co-op preschool. I admire him for standing up for his beliefs. I think this sets a great example for the kids. The WASL is a ridiculous waste of time and money given the lack of useful information it generates.

zb said...

I'm not going to support the WASL ('cause I don't know enough about it). I downloaded the math test a while ago, and liked it, though. But, I'm a random person who uses math in my work, not an expert. I also think standardized testing has forced us to face up to the fact that some of the kids aren't learning (even if it's also having other negative effects).

I also think standardized testing is here to stay, and that efforts should be focused on using a test that doesn't cause as much dismay, rather than railing against all testing.

As far as I can tell, SPS spends way too much time on the WASL, and I'd like to see less. An educator said to me the other day (about another state's test, so it doesn't necessarily mean the WASL pases the standard. She said her test was solid, and that if the kids had been learning the material she had taught them, they should be able to pass the test. She also said that she could see no easier way of teaching them to pass the test than to teach them the material (so, no test-prep). It's another state's test, so the WASL may not meet the standard, but I think it shows that tests aren't necessarily bad.

Ad hoc said...

ZB is right, standardized tests are here to stay. We took them when we were kids (only ours were given in one day, and lasted only a few hours). The difference today, besides the amount of time it takes for prep and testing, is the high stakes! If you don't pass the WASL, you don't graduate. If we simply must test, I would much prefer to see a "final exam" at the end of each class, a test made by the teacher, to assess if the material was mastered by the student. That seems much more meaningful to me.

I don't have a problem with an efficient standardized test, I just don't think the tests should be high stakes. I think they should simply be used to gauge where we are, and what we need to work on.

And I would also advocate for a national test, so we could see how we are performing compared to the rest of the US.

zb said...

"And I would also advocate for a national test, so we could see how we are performing compared to the rest of the US."

I don't see why the test shouldn't be the same for everybody in the country. I would also institute something like "O levels" and "A levels" . . . as practiced in England. We make up our own in the form of the IB & AP programs (though AP is certainly conflated with getting college credit).

And, I would still force everyone to take them, but not tie it directly the diploma. Folks could report having a high school degree w/ some form of testing, or not, as they wish.

Agent99 said...

I have to disagree with the people that have the attitude that WASL is here to stay so we might as well get used to it...

Those that oppose the WASL do not dislike all tests. What's wrong with the WASL is that it is EXPENSIVE and time consuming and provides meaningless reults.

It was reported in the Seattle Times and by our state's educational office that WASL costs $28 per subject tested. Tenth graders test in four subjects so that is $112 per tenth grader to take the WASL. Other states use tests to comply with No Child Left Behind that cost less than $10 for all subjects!!!

As soon as Terry Bergeson is out of office the WASL will be gone!

Momma Snark said...

Can someone clarify for me why Mr. Chew was administering the WASL in a sixth grade classroom? I was under the impression that kids were tested at the 4th, 8th, and 10th (or 9th) grade levels - is this not the case?

And bravo, by the way, to this teacher for moving beyond discontent into real action. So many of us parents and teachers have expressed our frustration with the WASL, but I'm not sure any of us have stuck our necks out quite so far as Mr. Chew has to draw attention to the very real problems with this test. I don't agree with all of his reasons for refusing to administer the test, but I am behind this man 100%.

h2o girl said...

momma snark, I believe the WASL is given from grades 3-8, and then again in 10th grade. A couple years ago I remember reading it was only going to be given in 4th, 7th and 10th grades, but my 5th grader is now on round 3 of taking it, starting in 3rd grade. If you look at elementary and middle schools' annual reports on the sps website, you'll see test data from 3rd through 8th grades.

dan dempsey said...

From 2000 to 2005 the WASL was given at grades 4, 7, & 10 and the IOWA test was given at 3, 6, and 9.
In spring 2006 & 2007 WASL was given at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 10. This is continuing in 2008.

THE WASL is neither a standardized test nor is it a norm referenced test. It claims to measure standards. That does not make it a standardized test.

The idea that the WASL in its current form is here to stay is not correct. It may or may not be.

Consider that Dr Bergeson is running against Dr Semler for SPI.

Rich Semler, as Richland Superintendent piloted the MAP test as a WASL replacement as did 6 other districts. Rich reported to the Legislature on this in Spring 2007. Dr Bergeson failed to submit a request to the FEDS for the feds to do a peer review on the MAP which would be required for the MAP to replace the current WASL for NCLB AYP. I have a copy of the letter the feds sent her. Love that freedom of information act.

We are stuck with WASL in current form until we get rid of Dr Bergeson. Get Dr Semler elected with over 50% of the primary election ballots in August and there will be no general election for SPI in November. Since SPI is a non-partisan position if a candidate gets over 50% they win.
Currently there are four candiadates: Dr Bergeson, Dr Semler, David Blomstrom, and Carl Hansler.

Dr Semler will likely have WEA support and be endorsed by them. Dr Bergeson will not be endorsed by the WEA. When locals run no confidence ballots on Dr Bergeson, she is not likely to be the recipient of WEA support.

It will take Dr Semler a few years to get the Fed peer review done and the WASL in current form gone.

Sure makes that vote for SPI an easy one for me. TB or not TB, WASL or NO WASL.

The MAP is vastly superior to the current WASL in every category.

Less total time, less disruptive, is diagnostic, is cheaper even when given three times per year, allows making judgments about individual kids based on that child's progress rather than some arbitrary standard that is applied to the whole group. End of course testing is coming for high school math in likely Algebra and Geometry rather than WASL math at grade 10.

In addition to his WASL position, there is a lot to vote for when casting a vote for Dr Rich Semler.

As a last thought on your tax dollars at work under Dr Bergeson's guidance check out this:
The PAS program (Promoting Academic Success) was funded to the tune of $19 million for 2007-2008 school year. This was to help those kids struggling to pass the WASL and was run out of OSPI. The legislature has ended PAS by giving it $0.
Instead the Legislature is funding Student Learning Opportunities to the tune of $18 million that will be under the control of individual districts (NOT OSPI).

Check out the full report of January 2008 on PAS by WIPP researcher Wade Cole. Any legislator that voted to continue PAS, clearly can not read.

Melissa Westbrook said...

There is testing from grades 3-8 and 10 because of NCLB. It is mandated that schools have to test. You'll note I say schools have to test but kids DO NOT have to take the test until 10th grade (and that's only because the WASL is a graduation requirement). What would support Mr. Chew is for parents to opt their students out in large numbers. That would send the signal to the Legislature that we need assessments but we need assessments that are not pricy and give teachers and parents the ability to get feedback on how their students are progressing.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa,

A vote for Dr Rich Semler is a vote for what you recommend as well.

Dr Bergeson in many ways has forced this ongoing nonsense WASL upon us.

What is needed is exactly what you recommend.

See this LINK.

Ad hoc said...

WOW Melissa!!! This is the best idea I've heard in a long time!!! I love the idea of the mass opt out!!!! Could this blog, and perhaps CPPS and CEASE, organize something like this??? Could we publicize it and make it happen??

It's hard to opt out as an individual because you feel guilty about taking a 0, and hurting your schools test scores which can drive enrollment down.Not to mention the repercussions your school has to face at the district level. BUT, if we all did it together it would make a very loud statement......

I vote for a state wide opt out week!!!

zb said...

Oh, I didn't say the WASL was here to stay, only standardized testing. And, I think that advocacy for changing the testing (frequency, test used, etc.) would be more effective if people narrowed their opposition.

zb said...

And, the reason I think standardized testing is here to stay is that there's another stakeholder in public schooling, one who wants "feedback"/"accountability" even if it does cause some disruption of the education of our children. That's the taxpayer. I think, personally, we need to see evidence that our own kids are learning (and lots of different evaluations can show that, including portfolios, merely talking to our children, talking to their teachers). But, the taxpayer doesn't get to do that -- they need a different form of feedback, and standardized testing provides it.

Ad hoc said...

Yes, I think standardized testing is here to stay too, although I hope that we will move from the WASL to a better test. Hey, we took these tests when we were kids, and I don't remember any trauma from them. Appropriate standardized tests, if not high stakes, can be helpful to teachers and the district. They tell them where they are succeeding and show them where they need more focus. They re-assure parents that the schools are doing their jobs, and they reassure taxpayers that their taxes are paying for something that is working, or bring to light something that is not working. I would personally love to see a national type test used, like the NAEP.

Ad hoc said...

And, I should say as much as I HATE the WASL, it is all we have right now to gauge how a school is doing (another reason I have my kids take the test instead of opting out as I would like them to).

Don't you appreciate knowing that only 8% of Summit's students passed the math portion of the WASL? I know there are many factors as to why they have such a low pass rate. Maybe they don't teach to the test, or do WASL prep. Maybe they have a larger amount of students who opt out, or maybe they have more low income students, or ELL students than other schools in their high performing cluster? So many factors that can cause the results. But still, I find myself wanting to know the test scores, and do my own research, before choosing a school. Imagine if we didn't have some type of standardized assessment? We couldn't find out how schools do compared to each other? Or how our district does compared to other WA districts.

Stargazer Lilly said...

Appreciate knowing only 8% passed the Math WASL after 12 years of WASL based education?

Sure. Who wouldn't want to know the system is NOT WORKING??? What a huge waste of time, energy, money, and potential.

If the Math is this bad, then what about the Reading and Writing WASL's? Don't we need to know if those 'tests' are just as bad and should be abandoned also???
(WASL VALID? Show me the study!)

The 8% only shows how much our kids are FAILING to learn in the area of Math. Many people wanted 'higher standards' in education because they were sick of kids in burger shops not able to make correct change. Well, it certainly HASN'T gotten better, has it? And us taxpayers have paid over a billion dollars to FAIL our kids.

Wake up Washington!!! Something fishy is going on in our state ... and it has nothing to do with the Pike Place Market fish toss.

I feel sorry for the kids in the Class of '08 having to be held to an unsteady 'standard' with an ever-changing test. NEXT YEAR the WASL is slated to have many changes. Is it fair to hold our current Seniors to something that won't even be the same for the class coming after them?

The Class of '08 are our test critters for what works and doesn't. I'd be pissed if I were a member of the current class! Oh well, they don't have to pass the WASL to register to vote....... yet. With 'Big Brother' pushers looming over us, that day may come sooner than later.
Bergeson and Gregoire are turning Washington State into the "Land of the Droids" who live only to work for the financial support of the government over them.

HappyKumagai said...

Finally, someone in the Seattle Public School system is standing up for fair, equal and applicable education within our public schools. I personally am not against testing or teaching to goals. But don't overlook the main idea behind Carl's statement. It's a wake up call for those who aren't directly involved in schools as much as those who are. The WASL is one example of a waste of money and ineffective use of everyone's time. It's directed at the needs of the group mentality instead of the needs of individual student. Let's give the incredibly hard working teachers out there more credit for knowing what their students need and can do rather than making them all aim for the generic bar. Perhaps then we can stop jumping through another hoop of expensive inefficiency and mediocre educational objectives. It's a necessary step for our future leaders to look beyond what's spoon fed to them and be creative problem solvers. Thank you CARL!

Agent99 said...

For those of you that want more information on opting out of WASL, or have questions about WASL (And please don't believe what teachers may tell you, there is alot of misinformation out there) I suggest you go to 'Mothers Against WASL' at http://tinyurl.com/6gq82m

zb said...

I can't talk about WASL in the school environment (weeks devoted to the tests, as I'm hearing about seem like a really poor use of the time). But, I've looked through the different sample tests, and I don't understand the "despising" of the WASL itself as a test (as oppose to it's frequency of administration, and it's use as a graduation requirement, or for judging schools).

Anyone have specific examples of parts of one of the publicly available tests they don't like?

Ad hoc said...

For me, it's not the test itself that I don't like. It's the 23 hours it takes to take it. It's the exorbitant cost (about $112 per student), and the way that it does not align to the district curriculum or EALR's (causing it to require a lot of WASL prep time. And, because it is graded by a human (yes, someone actually reads each essay and evaluates it), it takes a long time to finish grading it, and the results don't come back to the school until the fall - long after the child has moved on to the next grade with another teacher. So, it really doesn't help the student or teacher very much. In addition, due to the high stakes aspect of the test, many schools have done away with things like recess, the arts and music so they can get more WASL prep time in.

On a personal level, my kids complain that it is boring (of course what kid wouldn't be bored after 23 hours and 8 days of testing, how absurd).

We all took standardized tests when we were kids - they took a few hours, on one day. And I only took ONE in middle school and ONE in HS. We now waste two weeks of our kids precious classroom time testing at almost every grade level (not to mention the months of WASL prep, and failure to devote any time to non WASL tested subjects like social studies, the arts, etc.

That's my 2 cents.

I am pro standardized testing, I just don't like the WASL.

Stargazer Lilly said...

Please don't assume the WASL practice questions necessarily represent what is actually ON the WASL. How is anyone to know? With the secrecy and overwhelming security on the WASL over the years, who possibly knows what is actually ON the WASL??? We are just supposed to have blind faith in those who are in charge? I don't. They (OSPI) has done nothing to gain my trust. There is plenty to tell me there is something seriously WRONG with a test that has as much power as the WASL has.... without having been proven to be a valid testing tool!

The WASL has never been subjected to a validation process by an independent panel of testing experts. Washington taxpayers have NO WAY to know if it is even a quality test! The people who 'validated' it to begin with are some of the very people who CONSTRUCTED the test! This is like PAYING Betty Crocker to tell us if her cakes taste good.

Actual WASL question: (4th grade WASL a few years ago)
"You are seated in class and you look out the window to see your Principal flying around. Write four paragraphs on what happens next."
This is the question a little fourth grader in Aberdeen didn't answer and was SUSPENDED from school for a WEEK for not answering.

#1. How did they know he hadn't answered a question on his WASL if teachers and school administrators aren't supposed to READ the answers?

#2. Why isn't it the choice of the student to answer or not? Suspension for a 'good' student???

#3. Is this a reasonable, qualified, age appropriate expectation for a writing question for this grade level?

#4. OSPI answered that this was a question which didn't 'count' on scoring anyway. Apparently there are parts of the WASL that don't 'count' and yet we are subjecting our students to answering them. So what if a child spends their time answering the WRONG question and spends less time on the one that actually 'counts'????
-The next year the same question showed up on another grade level WASL.
-The next year the same question showed up on yet ANOTHER grade level WASL.
Did this question EVER 'count' on the scoring? And HOW MUCH are we paying for these tests to be scored??? ($56 mil next year!)

MY complaint on the WASL is that we should KNOW if it's a VALID test BEFORE we sink MORE MONEY and TIME into it! It's had 12 years to get it right....... and it's still not VALIDATED or 'standardized!'

Our kids are being used as guinea pigs in a state wide experiment!
The 'test' has FAILED!!!

I'm all for quality testing and high standards in education. I'm all for shared accountability. I DO have faith in the teaching profession.
It's the WASL I don't like!!!

I like the quote from Albert Einstein, "Not all that counts is counted, not all that is counted counts!" WASL does not give a full assessment of a child's education... and it never will.

Ad hoc said...

Just FYI, if you are the parent of an SPS student, and are curious as to what is on the WASL, or how your child answered the questions, you can make an appointment to view your child's WASL test. By the way this is done at the JOhn Stanford Center, not at your child's school.

Agent99 said...

zb asked:
"Anyone have specific examples of parts of one of the publicly available tests they don't like?"

zb, the test secrecy is part of the problem. "Mothers Against WASL" is a state-wide organization that had a big hand in securing the rights for parents to view WASL tests. Parent viewing has only been allowed for about 2 years now. Parents must have a school employee watch over them and parents are not allowed to copy or record anything. The few parents that jump through hoops to view have found mistakes!

Also getting the correct answer is not enough (if a question is worth 4 points, getting it correct may be worth 1 point, the other 3 points would come from how you explain your answer).

Many 'sample WASL' sites do not contain 'real' WASL questions, some are not even affiliated with the company that makes WASL.

Last time WASL questions were put out for the public to view (written by Dr. Catherine Taylor) there were something like 4 errors out of 20 questions (I will try to provide a link to this story later).

*I am too tired to proof read. please forgive any typos/grammar.

killthewasl said...

Yes, this year's 4th grade WASL question: You wake up in the morning, and see your shoes glowing. Write about your glowing shoes.


What's the right answer for that one? Does that question count? What if I drew a cool picture for it, would that be OK? Why or why not?

My entry for next year's WASL (aimed at the WASL-loving WaMu CEO): Should you OR Should you NOT give people with no money or things a big, giant loan? Explain your answer, using 4 details.

Ad hoc said...

One of the 7th grade writing WASL questions was to write a persuasive essay on this topic (according to my son's recollection and translation).

The school is thinking about assigning seats in the lunch room as it is currently to loud.

Maureen said...

zb said Anyone have specific examples of parts of one of the publicly available tests they don't like?

Two examples off the top of my head:

(1)The 6th grade reading WASL presented a FICTION story about a brother and sister who experienced a tornado. They had been arguing, the tornado struck, they hid in a closet and emerged after the storm to observe death and destruction everywhere. One comprehension question asked what the siblings had learned from the experience. Most of my son's class (according to their teacher) wrote thoughtful essays about how relationships are important and we shouldn't allow trivial arguments to separate us from ones we love because life is fragile. They all received terrible scores. The correct WASL answer was that you should hide in a closet if a tornado strikes.

(2)The 3rd grade writing WASL asked something like: An alien lands outside your house, what happens next? My son wrote and wrote for pages and got a 4. The 4th grade WASL asked something like: Write a letter to your teacher telling him the most important thing you have learned this year and why. My son wrote five sentences (he recited them to me verbatim) that answered the question completely. He got a three.

Stargazer Lilly said...

All in all, Mr. Chew is a hero for drawing attention to the ills of the WASL, particularly his concern for the HARM it does to his students. This is a man who is following his heart and doing what is right for the true education of students in Washington State. I'd like to nominate him for Teacher of the YEAR!!!

He obviously deeply cares about how the WASL is negatively impacting students in our state. What a great example he is for teachers who disagree with the over-testing going on in our educational system.

Good going, Mr. Chew!!! I support you 110%

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