Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Reasons to oust Terry Bergeson

Dave Orbits writes:

August 5, 2008
Dear Neighbor,

The Department of Education in the State of Washington has spent over 1 billion dollars since 1993 creating and administering the WASL test to students in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state. This test has been a failure. Terry Bergeson has been running this organization as the State Superintendent of Schools for the last 12 years and is up for re-election. Even if you don't have kids or your kids are grown this still affects you because a well prepared student will be able to compete and get a well paying job and pay taxes like the rest of us.

The Math WASL is a home grown test developed by Terry Bergeson and her organization in Olympia. Its design is based on a philosophy of education that prizes creativity and critical thinking. It tends to deemphasize actual mastery of knowledge about a subject. I'm sure we all can agree that creativity and critical thinking are important but it seems that "professional educators" have swung way too far in that direction. A Doctor that is very creative but not very knowledgeable about diseases, their symptoms, treatment options and complications would not be someone I would want treating me. Any body of knowledge is built on a large factual base and the Educators in Olympia seem to have forgotten this when it comes to Math and Science. Our world competitors in India and China are not making this mistake.

Terry Bergeson and her team do not take a systems approach in solving the problems of creating standards, performing assessment, providing feedback, and helping to guide improvements to instruction and individual student learning.

The WA Math standards for K-12 have just gone through a complete rewrite and I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the drafts and sending in comments to the writing team. The revised standards are still in poor shape with plenty of items that are vague and imprecisely written. This is a direct result of the team of people assembled by Terry Bergeson to carry out the revision. The lack of clarity is a serious problem with the current Math standards that have been in place for 10+ years. As an engineer, I appreciate the value of clear and precise standards documents. With the revised Math standards WA teachers will still be plagued with uncertainty as to what they need to teach students to prepare them for the WASL. Terry Bergeson was in charge of the standards revision process and I spoke with her directly about the problems with clarity and precision in the revised standards. She did not think it a problem and basically said that is the way all education standards are written. This is simply crazy. It is no way to run a standards based education system and it sure won't help teachers as they try and figure out what they need to teach. Especially when you consider that the math training of many elementary school teachers is on the weak side. I personally watched a new 4th grade teacher with a Masters degree in English Literature run into this problem when I volunteered at an elementary school this past school year.

The lack of a systems approach to standards based education is reflected in many aspects of the current Math WASL:

1. The test is cumbersome and time consuming to prepare for and to take.

2. The large number of free response questions requires a human grader making it time consuming to grade as well as subjective and expensive.

3. The time it takes to grade makes feedback very slow. Students take it in April and the results aren't available until the summer. Way too late for the teacher to help a failing student. In addition, the feedback is virtually nil. A report goes back to the school for each student with 8 performance indicators showing a plus or a minus indicating if the student meets the standard in a given category. The categories are based on the topic strands in the Math standard. They are:

1. Number Sense
2. Measurement
3. Geometric Sense
4. Probability and Statistics
5. Algebraic Sense
6. Solves Problems and Reasons Logically
7. Communicates Understanding
8. Makes Connections

These are no more informative than the "check engine" light on the dashboard in your car. What is a teacher supposed to make of a student report with a minus on "number sense" or "makes connections"? What did the teacher fail to teach? What did the student fail to learn? This is not actionable feedback. It is basically worthless and this test has been administered to 4th graders since 1997 more than enough time to fix things if you knew what you were doing.

4. It doesn't appear to be testing math. The data on WASL math improvement over the last 8 years shows about a 60% improvement in the percentage of 10th graders that pass the test (as of 2007). During the same period the data for WA students on the Math SAT published by the College Board is essentially flat. This says that WASL pass rate improvements do not translate to increased Math knowledge as measured by the SAT. Meanwhile follow-up studies have shown 51% of the students attending 2 year community colleges in WA are taking remedial math classes. These are classes for which they get no credit (but have to pay for) to bring them up to where they can do college level work. I don't know how many of these students passed the 10th grade WASL but it seems that many high school students are not ready for college. It doesn’t bear thinking about the lack of math knowledge possessed by students who choose not to go on to college.

The bottom line is that things won't get any better with Terry Bergeson running things. More money will be spent and more kids will graduate high school with poor math skills. This affects all of us even if our kids are grown or we have no kids because a well prepared student will be able to compete and get a well paying job and pay taxes like the rest of us.

Over 1 billion taxpayer dollars have been spent creating and administering the WASL since 1993. Yet the WASL still provides no actionable feedback to teachers so they can help students or improve instruction.
The result is that in 2007 —

50% of 10th graders failed the Math WASL
42% of 4th graders failed the Math WASL

Over 50% of WA 2 year college students must take remedial math classes, costing students and taxpayers more time and money. Minority and low income 10th graders are hurt the most with 77% of African American students, 74% of Hispanic students, and 70% of low income students failing the 2007 Math WASL.

Please vote in the Primary and consider voting for Randy Dorn. As I see it he is the only viable alternative candidate. I have spoken to him and he recognizes these problems and is committed to replacing the WASL test. Please forward this on to your friends and encourage them to vote as well. The alternative is 4 more years of terrible math learning in WA.

I have written several reports describing some of these problems if you are interested in more information.


David A. Orbits


David Blomstrom said...

These are also good reasons to snub Randy Dorn, since he and Bergeson are basically on the same team.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Anonymous said...

2PC - This state let itself get robbed. The reform movement is no-better than another south-sea pyramid.

Ten miracles a day couldn't cure all the ills in education. And Washingtonians believed everything B and supporters said.

The state's model for funding schools is as crooked as the textbooks that are given to Washington children. You have schools in this state that pretend to educate children and your leaders simply ignore the stark reality.

For example, Rossi is a disaster for this state. A lunatic that belongs out of government. He cut 46,000 disadvantaged children off health insurance?

Rossi's 2003 "Signature Budget" Threw 46,000 Low-Income Kids off Health Care.

"Perhaps the most controversial provision is a proposal to eliminate coverage for an estimated 46,000 children in the state Medicaid program…

But in order to help restore some of Locke's cuts, the Senate Republicans want to save about $100 million by dramatically overhauling the state's Medicaid program that currently serves nearly 600,000 children.

The GOP plan would lower the income-eligibility level, leaving an estimated 46,000 kids without coverage. Rossi's budget also counts on the state getting permission from the federal government to charge monthly premiums as high as $40." (Seattle Times, 4/2/2003)

Rossi Supported Bush Veto of the Federal SCHIP Bill. "There's a children's health care expansion bill pending in D.C. that President Bush has already vetoed once—and now a new one is coming his way. If the bill fails it could undermine legislation passed in Olympia last session that expanded children's health care coverage. Rossi supports Bush's veto. His campaign told me this morning that expanding coverage to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is what the federal bill (and our state bill) does, is the "wrong approach," explaining: "the majority of new children that are going to be coming on are either illegal or they currently have health insurance from the private sector." (Seattle Stranger, 10/30/07)

Voters will need to replace more than just B. before they will ever see improvement. Who's looking after the people in this state? If you don't do something, you are going to have a huge mess and no one around to clean it up.

Repeal the whistle-blower law, so state employees have some protection when they see something is amiss. What is it with this state? Are you so smug, that you just don't give a s...

Anonymous said...

Put a sign at all Washington Border crossings - No Dana Center consultants welcome here. Bunch of corrupt liars that can't do serious research. Send them back to elementary school so they can learn math.

Anonymous said...

Healthcare and education is what's going to screw up the Republicans, (again) - only the Democrats don't appear to have a plan either. Its hard to tell these two apart, they're such imbeciles - worse than Dee and Dummer - or B. and Bummer.

We're faced with unbelievable, spiraling health and education costs and as usual, political paralysis has seized hold of our political leaders, who we elected to govern, not steal from teachers and children or short sheet hospitals.

Anonymous said...

Let's have evolution take its natural course without healthcare. That should create a real shortage of teachers. Anyone care to see the statistics for teenage pregnancies in Washington? Naw, Dino-Saur doesn't think about why we have any healthcare or education in this state. Nothing is just too expensive for us. Lets save money and pay our politicians more money because gee its just getting too hot around here. Schmucks.

Anonymous said...

The question should be does a school that averages 57 on the math portion of the WASL, really prepare its students for college? The answer is of course no. While it might be safe to say that your school is above the state average, that does not mean the majority of students attending that school are above average - it doesn't include the students who stopped attending that school either. The WASL is very flawed, but so is this whole school system - we're not taking care of our kids. Kick these idiots out of office.

Anonymous said...

Reasons to eject TB -
1. Comparing her intelligence to a sponge, would insult my kitchen scrubber.
2. Fuzzington's Edu-bureaucrats lead in graft, fraud, and waste.
3. TB can't pass the WASL either.
4. Mediocrity is progress.
5. Dropping out is positive for WASL test scores.
6. Anything can pass for a school so long as it passes the WASL 'in 2013', even my dog manages to pass the WASL with some ex-lax.
7. TB thinks Evolution is a car model.
8. TB uses GPS to find her way around OSPI.
9. Math is a 4 letter word at school.