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Monday, May 11, 2009

WASL News (and Uses)

Juanita Doyon is a Spanaway mom who found PEN (Parent Empowerment Network) to fight for a better assessment tool than the WASL. She has been tireless in this effort. I'm on her mailing list and I received this message:

"Thanks to Bill Benson at KIRO TV for doing an important investigation and report on WASL. And thanks to those of you who contacted Bill to share your experiences. I received the following email from Mr. Benson on Friday. If you aren’t in the Seattle TV service area, please visit the www.kirotv.com to view the story, once it airs at the times stated in the email.

Juanita,

Thanks so much for your help on our WASL story. We’ve put together a two part series that’s been four months in the making and involves an analysis of every district in the state. The promos will be running this weekend and the stories will air on Monday May 11th at 11pm, and on Wednesday May 13th at 6pm. There will also be a place on our website where the public can take a look at WASL anomalies in any district they choose."

Also, I gave pause to giving out the following but decided that information is information.

A local conservative think tank, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, has just come out with its rankings of 1130 public elementary schools in Washington state. (Rankings for middle and high schools come out in the Fall.) It is not entirely clear how they conducted this assessment but an article in Crosscuts says it's mostly WASL-based.

The Foundation does take pains to say don't base your judgment on a school based on these rankings but clearly they think them important enough to invest the money in. Only one Seattle school received a "10" (drumroll - it's Lowell). There were 15 schools around the state to get a 10 (most in Medina/Mercer Island/Woodinville - oddly, none in Bellevue). The Seattle list also includes schools in surrounding districts but for some reason, they didn't put them under King county. From the Crosscut article:

"Year-to-year comparisons are one of the biggest complaints educators and standards researchers have to No Child Left Behind, which relies heavily on such testing systems, and is one reason Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is open to more nuanced growth or value-added models as lawmakers look at reauthorization of the education act."

The Evergreen Foundation ranking stacks school against school scores rather than improvement on the test from the previous year.

8 comments:

Stu said...

"Only one Seattle school received a "10" (drumroll - it's Lowell).

I remember seeing this asked somewhere before but can't seem to find it now. Now that APP has been split between two schools, are test results reported per school or per program? I mean, when someone does a comparison of school test results, would they see "Lowell-APP: 90%,"Lowell-GenEd: 90%"?

- stu

Melissa Westbrook said...

It isn't at Spectrum schools.

Dorothy Neville said...

That's so idiotic. I see from the article that there are points for not having an achievement gap within the school as well. Lowell would score well on that account for no honest reason. Silly to have Lowell rank so high if it weren't so sad. Of all the schools in the district, Lowell is the one that has the least claim to be responsible for any high achievement.

hschinske said...

You could just as easily argue that Lowell may well have the BIGGEST achievement gap (not that it's necessarily a problem). I can think of a couple of reasons that might be so.

Helen Schinske

Stu said...

All right. Perhaps I'm jaded . . .

The district was always looking for ways to sugar coat it but I'll never stop believing that the APP split was purely political. You had a school of over-achievers, mistakenly thought of as wealthy and white, in a district with failing programs. The success of the Lowell program had to rub a lot of people the wrong way. You had two schools that were doing poorly on the WASLs, and were even being threatened with some sanctions if I recall, that could instantly have their scores go up by combining them with the APP students. Mark my words. There's no way they're going to divide the scores. They'll average them out and then pat themselves on the back because the students are doing so well.

Here's an interesting fact:

2007-2008 WASLS

4th Grade Reading Math Writing
Lowell 96.6 95.5 96.6
TMarshall 35.9 51.4 28.5
TT Minor 59.4 46.9 40.6

5th Grade Reading Math Science
Lowell 98.5 97.7 97.0
TMarshall 56.7 41.4 10.3
TT Minor 62.1 37.9 20.7

With the split, the district has managed to add diversity to the building, not the programs. The problems that led to Madrona split are going to be realized all over again but, this time, the solution will not be giving the APP kids their own school. The district will split it again and again, until APP is just another ALO/Spectrum type of thing.

-stu

hschinske said...

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation won't give you the scores separated out, but they *will* be available from the district. There was a whole discussion on this just a short time ago, in the context of separating WASL scores by Spectrum and non-Spectrum students.

In any case, if Dorn makes good on his promise of instituting MAP testing, we should be able to measure progress at the individual level, which will be better all the way around.

Helen Schinske

suep. said...

I think Stu is right. None of the reasons the Supt. and district gave for breaking apart one of the state's highest performing elementary schools hold up. APP parents refuted every one of them. If this is all about injecting APP WASL scores into schools where scores were low, then an APP boycott of WASL beginning in 2009-10 is entirely justified. APP kids are not commodities. APP parents should neutralize the only "value" the district apparently places on these kids so the district will no longer be tempted to treat these kids like commodities to be shuffled around to spike test results. If that's what the district is doing.

There's an apparent misperception in the district and general community of the AP Program. But gifted education is not a privilege -- it is a necessity. The district and the state officially recognize these kids as having special needs. The state just included gifted education in its new definition of Basic Education. The Superintendent and Board do not seem to understand what APP is about and why these kids genuinely need this program -- taught as a cohort, not split into pieces. This ignorance and politically motivated calculation to split the program apart will undoubtedly weaken the program. When people ask in the future what happened to Seattle Public Schools' once successful and recognized gifted program, we will be able to name this Supt. and Board for having weakened and potentially destroyed it. Bravo.

SPS should address the needs of ALL kids in the learning spectrum, from remedial to accelerated. APP kids are no more -- but also no less -- deserving -- of fair and equitable treatment by the district in having their academic needs met.

The fact that the split is apparently creating a 'stong' and a 'weaker' APP school, at both the elementary and middle school levels, is yet another negative consequence of the Board's reckless vote. This could also lead to lawsuits, since families with APP identified children cannot choose one school over another.

As for the diversity of APP -- it is the district that determines enrollment and controls APP testing, not APP parents. Yet it was insinuated publicly in the media and privately by the Board that APP parents and/or the program is racist. Shame on all who perpetuated this lie.

Any lack of diversity in the program can only be addressed by testing more children, encouraging parents and teachers and principals to identify these kids and support their joining the AP Program. The tests should also be made more accurate in identifying children of diverse racial backgrounds and English Language Learners. Another problem is that because of the obsessive focus on standardized test scores as measurements of a school's success or failure, teachers and principals have no incentive to let their high-performing kids leave their schools to join the AP Program -- even though this is what these kids really need.

Stu is right -- cohousing APP with TTMinor kids at Lowell and with general ed kids at Thurgood Marshall will not accomplish greater "diversity" in the AP Program. It also does nothing to address the academic needs of the general ed kids. Madrona all over again -- twice.

Stu said...

I have a WASL question. Why does it take so long to get the test results. We were recently informed that results would be mailed out in September and I'm wondering why it takes 5 months to grade the tests.

Just curious.


stu