WASL Numbers Disputed in Times Story

This article appeared in today's Times. It is about how well the class of 2008 did on the WASL, depending on how you count the numbers. From the article:

"Bergeson's office this year didn't count all the students it has counted in the past. For the first time, it looked only at seniors who've passed enough classes to be on track to graduate this June. That left out 5,457 members of the class who are considered juniors or sophomores because they're behind in credits.

When those 5,457 students are added back, the passage rate drops from 84 percent to an estimated 81 percent — leaving about 15,000 students who still need to pass reading or writing on the WASL, or an alternative. When dropouts are considered — which some argue they should be — nearly a third of the class of 2008 has either left school or has yet to pass WASL reading, writing or both."

Terry Bergeson, State Superintendent, and her office promise a more detailed report in a couple of months. Well, that's a little late once you get those first numbers into people's heads. It doesn't negate her original statement on pass rate (for that group of students) but if you are talking about every student who entered as a freshman for the class of 2008 then she needs to account for them.

From the article:

[Assistant Superintendent Joe Willhoft] "Willhoft chafes at the suggestion that those students are being written off.

"I don't think anybody is losing track of what students need in order to get through high school, and get their diploma," he said."

A cynic might say yes, there are students who are written off albeit by looking the other way. I don't think anyone would dispute the difficulty of helping students who have hard life circumstances that may be compounded by an unwillingness to come to school regularly. I am sure there are administrators and counselors and teachers who try their hardest but may find, at the end of the day, that they feel they are losing a battle for that child and energies might be better directed to kids who are trying. This is a classic educational problem and what to do? How to better those kids' circumstances so they will want to stay in school? Or, again, is a cultural problem of school is for someone else and not them?

Back to the issue at hand, from the article:

"Many think it's a good idea for students to be called freshmen or sophomores until they have earned the credits to advance — one reason why districts such as Seattle hold them back. That way, they don't take the WASL until they've completed the classes they need to be successful.

If students haven't yet had geometry, for example, it doesn't make much sense to force them to take the WASL, which includes geometry problems, says state Rep. Dave Quall, a Mount Vernon Democrat and chairman of the House Education Committee.

At the same time, Quall also wants to know what's happening to all students in the class, not just the most successful ones."

Representative Quall is one of the hardest-working legislators we have on the issue of education. I haven't always agreed with him but he has tenacity and passion.


Anonymous said…
What percentage of Washington's teachers could pass the WASL? After numerous discussions with her, I'm 99% sure, my kid's 2nd grade teacher would have no chance at passing the math WASL(which I realize has been postponed, probably forever.) Not that it makes any difference, she is great. Too bad we make things so much more difficult for our kids than our teachers, at least in this one area. Bergeson could never get the teacher's union to require passing the WASL from our teachers as a requisite for teachers.
Charlie Mas said…
The OSPI plays all kinds of games with WASL numbers. Until they stop, all of their reports are suspect and should be closely reviewed for exactly this sort of chicanery.

If the students aren't being included in the count, then they are being written off - literally. The OSPI is intentionally choosing not to track them. So it is pointless for Assistant Superintendent Willhoft to deny it.

The baseline for all of these numbers should be all schoolage children in the state.
Charlie Mas said…
It has always been a mystery to me why WASL opponents want to spread its use, to OSPI officials, to legislators, and, in this case, to teachers. Isn't it enough that we require teachers to have masters degrees and certificates? Isn't it enough that we require them to take continuing education classes? Isn't it enough that we require high school math and science teachers to have degrees in their field?
Dan Dempsey said…

As many worry about the competency of classroom teachers, a bit of research shows that SPS as of Sept. 21, 2007 has 15 unfilled math teaching positions.


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