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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 27, 2009 at 4:00 PM

WASL reforms

Blowing smoke about feasibility

Newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) were the subject of a Seattle Times editorial Sunday [“Scrutiny encouraged for WASL reforms,” Jan. 25].

The Times urged him to slow down the WASL-revisions process in order to let people review it. That’s good advice. But The Times seems unconcerned about the proposal to run the WASL by computer in two days, instead of two weeks.

I’m sure the technology exists to rewrite the test for computer administration, though I’m unclear as to the cost and timeline. What seems to be overlooked is the huge lack of hardware needed to administer all four sections of the test in multiple grade levels at the same time.

The junior high school from which I recently retired after 37 years of teaching has about 90 computers available for such a purpose, and that’s stretching it. The school has about 500 seventh- and eighth-graders, who will have to take their portion of the test simultaneously to preserve test security.

It’s not hard to see the problem, but no one seems to be talking about it.

Either Dorn intends to run the test cycle for the original three weeks, despite what he’s said about administering the test over a couple of days instead of a couple of weeks, or he’s blowing smoke about the feasibility of using computers. My question is: From where is the hardware coming to run the test?”

— Kenneth Mortland, Bothell

Comments | More in Education, Washington Assessment of Student Learning

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