The WASL: Is It Serving Its Purpose for Anyone?

There was an interesting op-ed piece in today's Times by Kate Riley who writes regularly for them. Here's what happened:

"My 10-year-old son received a letter signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire and Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. "Congratulations!" it started. "... We are very proud of you, and you should be very proud of yourself."

Apparently, my son "achieved the state reading, writing and mathematics learning standards."

Here's the punchline to my son's letter. He is autistic in a self-contained special-education classroom with limited mainstreaming, can read some words, can add a little and can barely draw a straight line. Much as it pains me, I told my colleagues a few months ago, there is no way my pride and joy will ever meet state learning standards."

She goes on to explain that the state added alternatives to the WASL:

"In Washington, special-education students have only to meet their own personal "standard" based on the goals in their annually revised Individual Education Plans."

She makes one of the best and most honest statements I have ever heard about the WASL and its expectations:

"But what these tests should tell us honestly is whether a student meets one reasonable minimum standard of academic achievement — for all kids. Most can — with work and support. Sadly — and this is from one parent who struggles out of denial every day — some cannot. That's a fact."

She also points out the pressure that parents get because schools get it from OSPI and NCLB:

"You don't want him to count against the school, do you?" was a question I heard more than once as I asked questions. Well, no, but I don't want him to artificially inflate the school's success rate, either."

It's a question that some parents of highly capable students ask. Why take this test that will tell me virtually nothing about my student's progress? But, you will get flak from people about hurting your school should you opt out. Isn't this test supposed to be for the student?


Anonymous said…
What is its purpose?

Was it to raise the overall academic competence of graduates?

Then NO

Was it to increase the centralized power of the Superintendent of Public Instruction?

Then YES
Anonymous said…
There's a lot that's left out in this discussion. Most students in special education are cognitively normal or better (including many autistic students). So, at least half of these students should be expected to "pass" the WASL. The fact that only 10% of all special education students pass any statewide assesment including the portfolio and WAAS... is a travesty.

Either they are not being reasonably assessed with a flexibly measure, OR they aren't being taught effectively, OR both.

The WASL is just another tool that promises to exclude students with disabilities from post-high school education opportunities.

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