Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Are we obsessed with the WASL?

Interesting op-ed by former Governor Booth Gardner in today's Times, Obsession with WASL Unwise.

At first, I was prepared to be annoyed. Is this another Terry Bergson, "the WASL isn't everything but I sure made it the focus of my career" whine? (Harsh I know but I bugged me that during her campaign she kept trying to shift the focus away from the huge amount of time the WASL takes in her professional life.)

Governor Gardner had many thoughtful things to say. He points out the need for several assessments and not just one. He focuses on the need to tailor assessments to the individual and that the WASL was NOT developed for student to student assessment. (It was developed for teacher assessment or at least, that's what I was told.) He further states that the WASL "cannot be used reliably for this purpose (individual student assessment)."

He suggests taking the WASL every other year and using other assessments in off years and revisiting using the WASL for a graduation requirement. As to the first suggestion, great but you run smack dab into NCLB which mandates testing every year 3-8 plus a high school year. But, maybe it could be any kind of assessment and not the same one. I don't know; anyone?

I don't mind assessments but the WASL is a flawed testing instrument. I hope the Legislature gets on the ball and thinks up the alternatives that can be used.

I think another thing that might make it more purposeful and less stressful for teens is to drop the senior project and community service. Both those things vary from school to school, district to district and it seems like busy work. I ask people from all over the country and, to this day, have never had anyone say their teenager had to meet a certain grade point average, pass the state test AND do a senior project and community service. Not to mention do all the things that college admissions officers look for in a well-rounded applicant. Let them focus on the academics. Why not combine the senior project and community service and have them do the service and write a paper on it?

If assessments are so important, make that and classwork the focus.


Beth Bakeman said...

I agree completely with Booth Gardner's point of view.

Read yesterday's Seattle Times article on this subject: Many struggle with WASL

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Booth Gardner. Yes, we need to set standards and measure progress, but the level of time dedicated to the WASL is the main reason we can only consider alternative schools or private schools. The WASL is NOT a good, sole measurement of students, we are wasting precious resource time on it. The measurements are not developmentally appropriate, it is failing all our children and therefore our society.