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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 11, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Washington Assessment of Student Learning: an expensive failure

Let teachers do the jobs they’re hired for

If Times editors are grasping at WASL in its last breaths [“Study: WASL boosted some skills,” NWThursday, July 30], they should take a random polling of parents and teachers throughout the state instead of relying on the results of one admittedly targeted study of a relatively small sample of teachers. Or perhaps they should look at the college success or failure of students who have been subjected to the WASL their entire school lives. Or perhaps a survey of stagnated National Assessment of Educational Progress scores would convince them that WASL is going, going, gone the way of the Edsel for a reason.

Bottom line: Sometimes, expensive experiments fail. WASL failed. The people who paid the bill recognized that it failed and voted for change — not tweaking, but change.

Nothing precludes the professionals in our classrooms from emphasizing writing and reading skills. In fact, I remember teachers emphasizing writing and reading skills when I attended public schools. My parents certainly learned to read and write well in public schools, as did my husband and my four children (none of whom had to take or pass a WASL).

Teachers are educated professionals who need time and support, not a standardized testing hammer hanging over their heads, to do the job they are entrusted with. The way I look at it, if the teachers in this state managed to teach children to read and write well in spite of the WASL, they can do anything.

— Juanita Doyon, director, Parent Empowerment Network/Mothers Against WASL, Spanaway

WASL legacy: higher dropout rates

The legacy of the WASL is and should be remembered as having maximized the dropout rate and narrowed the breadth of skills that are taught in Washington public education.

Every child begins their K-12 journey with a unique constellation of aptitudes and interests. Over the course of a K-12 education, they encounter a diverse group of about 60 teachers, each of whom will make an independent assessment of how to maximize the potential of each child.

The aggregate of those assessments is far more likely to be the best answer for directing that child’s education than any standardized test could ever be. The same magic that makes Wikipedia and sports books in Las Vegas work would work in K-12 education if we just stopped trying to standardize the education of unique kids.

— George and Patricia Robertson, Seattle

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