Monday, August 11, 2008

WASL workshop report by Nick Daniggelis

On Monday, July 28, 2008, a WASL Workshop was convened by 8 members of State Legislature and chaired by Sen. McAuliffe.

I was a little late for the start of the meeting, so I did not catch who all formed this work group. The purpose of this work group is to review and evaluate the current assessment system by January 1, and make recommendations to improve it. In order to properly put everything into perspective, a brief history of what happened needs to be explained.

In 1991, Educational Reform was introduced by then Gov. Booth Gardner and continued by Gov. Gary Locke, who likes to be known as the education governor, only in this case he should probably be known as the dis-education governor. This reform package introduced the Essential Learning Academic Requirements (ELAR's) and Grade Learning Essentials (GLE"s) that were supposed improve the quality of public education in this state. The fact that these math standards have just been rewritten and replaced, confirm that they have been unmitigated failures, and are responsible for many of the math deficiencies that students in the Washington State Public School System have incurred. The ELAR's and GLE's allowed new Reform Math Curricula to be introduced and implemented that did not teach basic, fundamental mathematical skills, and disallowed the use of conventional math curricula. The results of this failure are clearly shown in the number of remedial math classes that are offered by the various community colleges throughout the state. Most community colleges offer more remedial math classes in terms of subject and number of classes than they do college level math courses. If you don't believe me, just look at any Community College Class Catalog and you'll see what I mean. The students attending the community colleges in this state are not stupid, because many have graduated high school and have received high diploma's, but they are deficient in mathematical skills, because of an inadequate math curricula. It is important to note that curricula decisions are not made by the teacher, but by school district officials with confirmation by the local school district board of directors. Don't unfairly blame the teachers for the inadequate mathematical skills your child has received. Put the blame on those who are responsible, which are high level local school district officials and Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

This reform package also gave us the worthless, fraudulent Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), as an evaluation of student learning. When this fraudulent assessment test was first administered, only 23% of the students could pass the math test, yet they were averaging very high percentile rankings on the ITBS Tests. From the period of 1998 to 2004, the ITBS was dually administered with the WASL. The average score of the 3rd grade ITBS for all of Washington State Public School Students was 65%. This is against a true national average of 50%. Our students were doing very well. The problems arose from the 4th to 6th grade period. The ITBS is designed so that a student's 3rd grade percentile ranking should correlate to their 6th grade percentile ranking. As students were taught to WASL Standards, which lack basic fundamental math skills, there was a consistent 5 percentile decline in the average scores. This is huge and should have confirmed to Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats that there was something wrong, if they knew how to read and interpret statistical information. This percentile decrease increased in the last year the ITBS was given to seven percentile, as Supt. Bergeson and bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats issued a continuous barrage of curriculum directives reminding teachers to teach to the WASL and WASL Standards. The math skills that are learned from the 4th to grade grade are some of the most important skills that are used throughout the rest of your life. These include multiplication, division, decimals, fractions, conversions and percentages. Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats have chosen to give our students and my children in particular, inadequate math skills during these formative years, as they are being told to count by using fingers, toes, eyes ears and nose, words, pictures and drawings, instead of mathematical formulation and arithmetic reasoning. This lunancy by high level public officials is the real cause of the inadequate mathematical skills that many students have incurred. The ITBS data used to be on the OSPI website, but has since been removed, as the tests have been discontinued.

Supt. Bergeson was first elected to office in 1996 and is now seeking a fourth term. This means that she has held this office for 12 years, which is one, full K-12 cycle. I would like to know what she and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats have been doing for the last 12 years, so that less than half of the high school seniors can pass the WASL Math and Science Test? There is definitely something wrong with the quality of Public Education in this state and perhaps the real cause of this problem is Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats at OSPI and not the teachers that she has been blaming .

As usual, Supt. Bergeson paraded her usual experts of distortionists, propaganda specialists and out right liars before this workgroup, who retain just enough credibility to make it very diificult for anyone to separate fact from fiction.
One of the biggest lies or distortions is saying that norm referenced tests compare students against students versus the WASL, which is a criterion based test that compares students against a standard. This is an outright lie. The normal curve for a test like the ITBS is already determined before the test is issued. The ITBS was first used in the 1930's and is probably the closest thing we have to a national data base. The normal curve for the test is determined by taking the previous years results and making slight adjustments to it for a sample test that is given prior to release of the test. The data base for the ITBS is such that a student can take the test at anytime throughout the school year and be compared to a student that takes it at a later date within the school year. The difference in the ability of a student that takes a test early in the school year versus one that takes it later in the school year can be tremendous as new skills are learned throughout the school year. The ITBS can adjust for this, the WASL cannot. The ITBS can return a student's results within 4 to 6 weeks, and the results are stated in terms of National Percentile Rankings. This is important to many parents like myself, because we want to know how our children are doing at both the local level and against their national peers. This is important information to know, because they are going to have to compete against other students from other states and countries for college admissions and jobs. National Percentile Rankings also give credibility to the grades a student earns.

There is a tremendous amount of difference in the quality of public education throughout the United States. States like California, Massechuettes, Indiana and Minnesota have excellent public school systems. Washington D. C. and Mississippi are universally acclaimed to be the worst, with other states ranked somewhere in between. An A or 4 earned in most school districts in California and various other states with high standards is credible, whereas the same grade earned in Washington D. C. or Mississippi may not be so credible. National Percentile Rankings can be used to confirm the quality of the grades that are earned. Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats are denying concerned parents, like myself, a vital tool for evaluating the performance of our children by denying the use of the ITBS.

There appears to me to be some confusion about whether the ITBS Tests can be administered or not. I distinctly heard that some money was appropriated in the budget for the ITBS for those parents that wished their child to be tested. During the 2004/5 school year, I requested that my oldest daughter be allowed to be allowed to take the 3rd grade ITBS and the 4th grade WASL in the same year. Here is what happened and why I made this request.

When my oldest daughter was in the second grade, I saw an announcement that the Challenge Program in the Edmonds School District was accepting applications. I thought my daughter was doing extremely well in school and I decided to apply her for the program. An entry test was required and the student had to pass the test in order to gain admittance. The Cognitive Abilities Test (COG-AT) was used. This test is a predictive test of the ITBS. Since my daughter was in the 2nd grade, she was administered the 3rd grade COG-AT. The results of the COG-AT are reported in terms of National Percentile Rankings. In order to qualify for entry into the program a score of 90 or better is needed in any one of three categories, Mathematics, Reading or Creativity. My daughter qualified on her math score. This score meant, that as a second grader, she was predicted to be in the 90th percentile or better when she took the 3rd grade ITBS.

Shortly after entering the Challenge Program, she began having difficulties with Math, because the Administrator of the Challenge Program did not believe that 3rd grade students should be taught the mulitplication and division skills needed to solve some excellent math problems from the Continental Math League. Instead, they should be able discover these skills for themselves. I don't know how this lunacy evolved, but it presented a real source of frustration to my daughter, and was destroying her confidence. This concerned me, and I started making remarks on her homework, questioning the wisdom, or perhaps lack of it. This eventually caused a crisis, and it was agreed that we would withdraw from the program, provided she could enter the 4th grade at her home school. The request was granted. She was also recognized as Student of the Month while she was in the Challenge Program.

Since the mid year school transfer and grade skip was an unusual situation, I requested that my daughter be allowed to take both the 3rd grade ITBS and 4th grade WASL in the same year, as I wanted her academic records to be complete. I asked this of my principal. He replied that he did not have this kind of authority, but would forward my request to the Asst. Supt. in charge of my school. This was done about 3 weeks prior to the administering of the ITBS Tests. In a lowdown bureaucratic manuver, the dirty, rotten scoundrels at OSPI denied my request about a day before the ITBS was to be given. This left me no time to consider any alternative appeals or courses of action. Based on what I heard at this workshop, the State Legislators has budgeted money for this type of request and Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats, thwarted legislative intentions and denied me something that I was entitled to. The ITBS results were important to me, because I wanted to know my daughter would do against her predicted results. It also appears to me that the devious, unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson has not informed local school districts that requests for dual testing be honored. I believe that this unscrupulous politician feared that my daughter would achieve or exceed her predictive ITBS results, but fail the worthless, dubious WASL, casting doubt on the credibility of the WASL as a valid assessment test.

There are also programs for extremely gifted children that are sponsored by the Robinson Center at the University of Washington and John Hopkins University. In order to qualify for these programs, students have to test at the 97th National Percentile or better. Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of blundering bureaucrats denied me the oppurtunity to see if my daughter could qualify for these programs. Her 3rd grade NAEP Score showed me that she may have had a chance as she hit the 99th percentile, if I read her score correctly. It is rather unfortunate that the National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP) reports their results in graph form, so that the reader has to interpolate the graph.

The unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson likes to use the NAEP Results to confirm the results of the WASL and how well our students are doing. The NAEP Tests are administered by the Federal Government every two yesrs. They are only administered at randomly selected schools. It is the random selection process that is very suspicious and may not be so random. In 2006, the schools that were selected in the 4th grade within the Edmonds School District were College Place, Meadowdale and Westgate Elementaries and in the 8th grade Alderwood, Meadowdale and Terrace Park Middle Schools. All three elementary schools are on the westside of Highway 99 and among the best performing schools within the district. The middle schools are probably a more fair representation of the district as a whole. The question that still remains is why doesn't the NAEP test all schools within a district or allow students of parents who wish them to take the test, be allowed to take the test? It is a tool that parents can use, even though it would be the better students that would probably take the test on a optional basis, thereby causing scores to be higher than they might otherwise be.

One of the major reasons for the formation of this workshop is the cost and effectiveness of the WASL. Supt. Bergeson's staff prepared graphs and charts showing a tremendous increase in the cost of the WASL since it was first introduced. There are several reasons for this increase; the structure of the WASL, the increased number of grade level tests, and the correction of those tests. Every dollar of increase of the WASL, decreases the amount of money that can be used for the education of our children. Since tax dollars are at stake, everyone needs to decide what is better for our children and the future of this country. Is it better to teach our children, or to assess what they have learned over a two week period of time that detracts from valuable teaching time and disrupts school schedules?

As I was listening to the presentation of the financial portion of the WASL, I got the distinct impression that Supt. Bergeson's staff was trying to hide the true cost of the WASL, for if the true cost was known or could be determined, it would be exorbitant. Everyone should be demanding that the State Auditor perform an audit to determine the true cost of the WASL. As with any test, there are legitimate costs associated with the test. These would be the writing of the test, the correction of the test, the printing and distribution of the test, the monitoring of the test, distribution of the test scores to both the school district and parents, and storing the tests until the record retention expires. This worthless fraudulent assessment test is projected to cost over $40 million in 2009, and this amount does not include the costs the local school districts have to absorb in terms of security for the tests, proctoring the tests and distributing test result to the parents.

Each grade level subject test consists of 50 to 60 problems and the WASL is mandatory for 3rd grade through 10th grade students, unless they opt not to take the WASL, which is their right to do so, but not many do A chart prepared by Ben Rarick, of the House Appropriations Committee Staff, shows a per cost per student subject test to cost about $23.21. Since students are required to take multiple subjects tests at various grade levels, the true cost of a grade level test is close to $50/per student. Off the shelf, standardized national tests cost far less than that and provide more timely and valuable information to parents and school administrators. Grade level WASLs are first administered in the 3rd grade for reading and mathmatics. Fourth grade students are tested in reading, mathematics and writing. Fifth grade students are tested in reading, math and science and sixth grade students are tested in reading and mathmatics. There is also serious discussion about adding a second grade WASL. Need I say more? I think you get the idea of how much money is being wasted and squandered on an invalid and fraudent assessment test. Just remember these are your valuable tax dollars and precious educational resources that are being wasted and squandered by Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats.

The WASL is usually administered in April, just after Spring Vacation, over a two week period. School and district results are not available until the end of August, and parents and students do not know the results until the end of September. The cost of distributing the WASL results to the parents and students is borne by the local school districts. The front office staff in the local school is expected to do this along with their daily duties at the beginning of the school year at a time when they are exceptionally busy, resulting in increased expenditures to school district budgets that are already strained.

Now compare this to the results from national tests. When my oldest daughter was in the 3rd/4th grade, the 3rd grade ITBS was administered in early March. Parents received the results of their child's score by the middle of April by mail, directly from the publisher. School, district and state results are compiled and reported by the end of July. What is more meaningful and timely? How can an assessment test be considered valid, if the results are not known until 6 months after the test is taken? The purpose of an assessment test is to recognize a student's strengths and weaknesses. How can grade level deficiencies be corrected, when they're not known until after that student passes that grade? Who is the lunatic that is responsible for this?

In late 2006, the Washington Learns Commission released their report and recommendations to help correct the deficiencies in Washington State's Public Education System, as it is quite obvious that our students are deficienct in mathmatical skills as they have been taught to WASL Standards. The State Legislature directed Supt. Bergeson to rewrite the state math standards, which were the nebulous and undecipherable ELAR's and GLE's and replace them with world class standards. She hired the Dana Center from Austin, Texas to do this. The Dana Center reviewed and compared the standards from two foreign countries, Finland and Singapore; and three states, which are California, Indiana and Massachuttes. The standards that the Dana Center proposed drew much criticism from mathmatical experts. The State Legislators heeded this criticism and took the standard writing responsibilty away from Supt. Bergeson and the Dana Center and gave it to the State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE gave us stronger Math Standards than what Supt. Bergeson proposed, but not as strong as many professional mathematcians wanted. Supt. Bergeson did everything in her power to subvert this process. This was an important battle that was not reported by the worthless news media in this state.

My own feelings on this were, if we wanted world class standards, we should have chosen the standards from one of the states and just copied it, saving millions of dollars of wasted educational resources. A couple of years ago, the Mothers Against WASL Website posted a copy of the California Standards Test. The cover page of each grade level test told which math skills were being tested. The test used 4 or 5 problems to test each skill, with each problem being a little more difficult. I thought it was a good test and very fair test. Student results, would expose student deficiencies, if they existed. Test results could be obtained very quickly, because the test could be machined scored, and deficiencies could be corrected within the current school year. I'd be willing to bet that this test could be purchased, scored, and the results returned, far more quickly and cheaper than the worthless, fraudulent WASL.

The new math standards are going to cause a revision to the WASL and this is another reason for this work group. This work group is also weighing the possibility of scrapping the WASL and replacing it with off the shelf standardized tests. If the California Standards Test is good enough for Caliifornia and California is universally recognized as having world class standards, then it should be good enough for us, thus saving millions of dollars of valuable educational resources.

Many states also use the ACT Test as measure to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. The states of Colorado and Illinois use this test to test 100% of their eligible students high school students. Various other midwestern states and southern states also test a very high percentage of their high school students with this test.

Earlier this year the North Kitsap School District was interviewing candidates for School Superintendent. When the finalists were announced there was a open house and meet the candidates meeting. I went to this, because one of the finalists was an Asst. Supt. of Teaching and Learning from the Arapahoe County School District of Colorado. I wanted to ask her why Colorado chose to use the ACT Test in order to comply with NCLB. She replied that although school officials believe that not everyone goes to college, they need college preparation, because the skilled trade jobs of the past no longer exist in this country. Colorado school officials wanted to give their students a test that could also be used as bona fide college admissions test. This type of common sense and foresightedness is sadly lacking in this state as Supt. Bergeson continues to push for more expensive and dubious WASL's. Colorado tests 100% of their eligible students and they averaged 20.1 on the math ACT. This is below the national average of 21, but is a temendous showing, because not all states test 100% of their eligible students. Testing 100% of the students means that more marginal students are being tested, which lowers the overall average. Colorado also has one of the narrowest achievement gaps in the nation, which is rather amazing since 25% of their students are Hispanic. Blacks, Hispanics and various other minorities, fail the discriminatory and prejudicial WASL in alarming numbers.

The ACT is also used as an alternative to the high school WASL. A minimum Composite Score of 17 is needed to pass for high school graduation. In December 2007, I had my 7th grade daughter take this test, in order to see if she could qualify for the Young Scholars Program at the U of W. She didn't, but I was quite pleased with her scores, which I attribute to the very fine and dedicated teachers that have taught her in the Edmonds School District. Her Composite Score was 18, which means that she has passed the high school Alternative WASL. This is amazing when I think about all of the classes that she has yet to take and all of the skills that she still needs to learn. The Writing portion of this exam is required and I was extremely pleased that she hit the 77th Nationwide Percentile with her written score as this is far better than many high scool juniors and seniors are able to do. Her grammar appears to be a little weak, but I have no doubt that will self correct in time as she takes more English courses. This test costs $31 for the basic test, which consists of Math, English and Reading. The Writing Test is an additional $15, which is quite understandable since it has to be manually read and scored. Also adding to the difficulty is that many students have undecipherable handwriting. For another $15, you can purchase the test booklet and your childs answer sheet, which is something that cannot be done with the WASL and is a violation of parental rights under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. Another $10 allows you to purchase a copy of your student's essay. The test rersults can be automatically forwarded to 4 colleges or universities. The four sections which form the High School WASL cost $100 and may be more with retakes for the alarming number of failures that occur. The ACT is a bargain compared to the WASL, whose costs are undetermined and a waste of taxpayer's monies. There should be about 70,000 students taking this test each year, although the actual amount could be less because of dropouts. If the ACT was purchased in this kind of quanity, I'm sure there would be some kind of price break or discount, as it appeared that the OSPI Staff at this meeting were trying to pass themselves off as shrewed bargainers and negotiators.

For $61, I purchased the test, the written test and the test booklet and answer sheet. I was especially interested in the math portion of this test. The math test consists of 60 questions and the student has one hour to answer as many questions as they can. Basically it is a speed/accuracy test that tests for basic skills, and even though many people find this abhorent, it equates speed and accuracy with intelligence. Only the best of the best are going to be able to score extremely high on this test. The test is scored on a 1 to 36 scale, with the National Average being 21. I self tested myself to see how my math skills compare to today's stdents. My score was 22, which means that I am about equal with today's high school students. This is rather frightening, since many of my skills have suffered from years of neglect and non use. Even at my best, which would have been a Junior or Senior in high school, I doubt that had I taken the test at that time, my score would have exceeded the 27-29 range. The University of Washington was the only university that I applied to, and they did not require the test, so I had no need to take it. I wish now that I had taken the test, just so that I would know where I would have stood.

In terms of time, each section of the test takes and hour and there is a small break between session. I believe the written test takes an additional 1/2 hour. My daughter took this test on a Saturday morning. She started at 8 and was done just shortly after 1 pm. This is far better than a worthless assessment test that takes two weeks to administer. I would rather see her spending her time learning than being tested. The purchase of the test booklet and answer sheet allowed me to conduct my own assessment and evaluation of her skills.

The Math portion of the test categorized the questions into three categories; Algebra, Trigonometry and Geometry and they are intermixed. The farther you go into the test, the more difficult the problems become, and therefore more time consuming to solve. It is an absolute lie by Supt. Bergeson's bloated staff of bureaucratic bunglers, propaganda distortionists and out right liars like Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft, that this test cannot be used as an assessment test. Since math skills are built on a foundation of acquired skills starting in the first grade, this test tests for all math skills that have been acquired since the first grade. Multiple skills are needed to solve many of the problems. The real beauty of this test is that it appears to me to be quicker if the student solves the problems manually, than using the calculator. If order to solve a math problem manually, you really have to have the manual skills to solve it, which means that you learned your math and learned it well. Such logic appears to be beyond the comprehension of Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of blundering bureaucrats and other high level administrators within our local school districts. It's about time we started making them responsible for the failure of our children and demand some changes.

Here is a comparison of the costs of the ACT and the 10th grade WASL. The 10th grade WASL consists of four tests, Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Science. If each subject WASL costs $25, then it costs about $100 for each student to take this test. If retakes are considered, because the failure rate is so high, then the test per student cost is actually much higher, as retakes are added in. So what is the true cost of this worthless, fraudulent assessment test State Auditor Sonntag? The ACT cost $71 if al of the options are purchased. Not everyone will purchase all of the options, therefore the actual effective cost to a school district could be much less.

The unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson likes to boast how well Washington State students score on the ACT and SAT, but lets take a look the numbers behind the scenes. About 16% of the public school students take the ACT and SAT Tests. Major state universities throughout the nation have student body ratioes of 80% in state students, 16% out of state students and 4% foreign students. There can be some variation to these figures, but I think you get the idea. The reasons for students of various states to take this test can also vary too. I'm not a professional educator, so I don't have access to many of the resources that professional educators do. Here's what I think is happening and why our students appear to be scoring well on the ACT, when in fact they may not be.

Within Washington State, there is no reason for any student that is going to an in state public university or college to take this test. It isn't required. Therefore the only reason for a student to take this test, would be if they want to go to an out of state college or university and need this test in order to confirm the quality of their grades. Is it coincidental that the 16% figure matches the 16% figure that goes out of state? I would consider that a student who attends an out of state university of college to be among the better students, therefore their ACT or SAT Scores should be higher than those attained by more average students. This could be something that the WIPP could research. I don't think the unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson, dishonest Asst. Supt. Wilhoft and the rest of their bloated staff of blundering bureaucrats are capable of supplying an honest objective answer.

I was really impressed with the quality of the State Legislators that formed this work group. It appears to me that they are taking their tasks and responsibilities very seriously. This is far different from a Legislative Meeting that I attended in February 2007, for public comment on the WASL. There appeared to be almost total disinterest in what the public was saying, either pro or con. I thought the questions these legislators asked of the presentors were very good and confirmed their understanding of the problems facing our public school systems. I heard two outright lies by representatives of Supt. Bergesons staff and Dishonest Joe Wilhoft, which makes it very difficult for the State Legislators to do their jobs, because they have to separate fact from fiction.

The first outright lie occurred when Supt. Bergeson's staff was asked if any states used the ACT or SAT to comply with NCLB. Dishonest Joe looked at his staff and said that he knew of none, and of course his staff had to agree with him, or they would not have a job when they got back to the office. The states of Colorado and Illinois use the ACT to comply with NCLB. Tennessee and Mississippi test almost 100% of their students. Maine is now using the SAT and testing 100% of their students. I would suppose that many other states throughout the midwest and south do too, as many test very high percentages of their eligible high school students. This information can be found on the ACT Website.

I would like you to consider something. Asst. Supt. Dishonest Joe Wilhoft is a very high level offical within OSPI and as a result he has attended various out of state functions and conventions at taxpayers expense. I have no problem with this, because much can be learned by what other states are doing, by talking to other officials. The problem is that Dishonest Joe did not to know what other states are doing and may not have attended these conventions and functions, because he appeared to be unaware that any state was using this test to comply with the NCLB. Not only that, but the OSPI Website had links to the ACT and SAT Websites. Perhaps the State Auditor should audit Dishonest Joe's expense and travel accounts in order to make sure that he actually attended these functions and conventions. Afterall anyone who has the courage to lie to this committee and get away with it, should also think of themselves to be clever enough to out smart the State Auditor. Overall, I was impressed with the questions the Legislators asked, but less impressed the with preparation and presentations of the OSPI Staff. Far too many questions went unanswered, with we didn't look at this, but we'll find out for you.

I found out about this meeting about two weeks before it ocurred. OSPI was well aware of it long before that, as communications ocurred that probably set the agenda, and a list of questions the group wanted truthful and objective answers to. There were times that I wanted to blurt out, I can answer that, but did not want to be escorted out of the meeting for doing so.

As a concerned parent I have reviewed the 3rd grade Reading and Math, 4th grade Reading, Math and Writing and 6th grade Reading and Math WASL. In order to review a WASL, the local district has to provide a proctor. In my case, my proctor was Dr. Nancy Katims, Director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation. A director is a highly paid administrative official within the school district. For arguments sake, I would estimate her salary and fringe benefits to cost my school district about $100,000/year. If I'm too far off the mark, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will hear about this. This salary is about $50/hour. A parent is allowed one hour to review each grade level subject WASL. As you can see, I have probably cost my school district, in terms of lost productivity from this highly paid executive about $350. This is far more that the cost of the WASL's that my daughter's took, and is a cost the local school district has to absorb, which is not counted against the cost of the WASL and OSPI's budget.

The second outright lie occurred when the group asked if National Percentile Rankings could be converted into pass/fail scores. Once again Dishonest Joe and his staff lied to the workgroup when he stated they could not. This statement was later refuted by Annie Pennucci of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WIPP), in her presentation. She stated that the Institute considered the 35th percentile as a cutoff point. This means that almost two out of every three students taking this test, are better than the student that fails this test. This seems a little low to me, as I went to school when standards and expectations were higher, and everything hadn't been dumbed down. I understand that a person can be below average, but still be considered average. I would probably draw the line at the 40th to 42nd percentile. It would have to be determined if the student lacks the ability to learn, or doesn't have the desire to learn. There is a big difference between the two concepts. In either case, the student could be considered a candidate for Special Education.

One of the reasons that the WASL costs so much is that it consists of open ended questions and written answers, which cause manual corrections which are expensive. The questions on a WASL can be worth 1 to 4 points. Here is an example of a 4 point problem that was on the 2007/8 3rd grade Math WASL. I'd like you to determine if my daughter got the right answer, as this will show you the problems of this fraudulent assessfment test. The problem was find the square area of a 3 x 4 rectangle. The WASL requires that students explain their answer. My youngest daughter, who can be very creative at times and fling the bull, so that not only can the bull hit the barn, but actually land inside the barn. Some how she missed the barn on this problem and not only did she miss it, but missed by a mile. The bull bull probably landed in the neighbor's front yoar or through their front window, as she went goofy on her written answer. She has tendency to get too creative at times. I really couldn't follow her logic, and it appeared to me that neither could the person who was responsible for grading her answer, as she received no credit for this question, but down at the bottom of her answer was 3 x 4 = 12 in neat cleary written row format, which showed me that she knew how to multiply and correctly format a mathematical equation and proficiently used arithmetic reasoning to correctly solve the problem. What is her correct score and does she know what she needs to know for a math test? A 4 on this question would move her up from being within the top 125 in the Edmonds District to being within the top 25. What is her true ranking? She knows how multiply and I think you can see that. She had 3 other points deducted for various reasons on other answers, so she missed 7 points overall, with the question being did she miss 7 points or 3 points? .

There was another problem that I found on the 2004/5 4th grade Math WASL, that was a test error and my oldest daughter received no credit for. This is problem 29 on that exam: "Hirato and his friends want to go to the Drive-In. Hirato can't drive so his brother has to drive them. How many people in the vehicle?" This was a multiple choice question so the answers were a. 3; b. 5; and c. 9. My daughter anwered b. 5. She made a nice drawing of a 5 passenger sedan, consisting of 2 bucket seats in front and a bench rear seat. If the singular and plural nouns in this are converted into correct minimum values the correct answer is 4; 1 for Hirato, 2 for his friends and 1 for his brother. It is also quite possible that Hirato could be quite popular have many friends, which would also make c a correct answer. The other possibility is that Hirato could have gotten into a fight with one of his friends over which movie they wished to see, therfore eliminating one of his friends, which would make a the correct answer. Such violence cannot be condoned, so therefore I assume that a is an incorrect answer, and the student has to chose between two plural values, either of which could be correct. With errors like these, how can the WASL be considered a valid assessment test, especially on a pass/fail basis? Come on you worthless managing editors of the major news media, how about demanding some responsible answers? Why don't you pursue this matter with the same vigorous enthusiam as you do your vicious and often times unwarranted character assissinations?

The answer key to the WASL resides with Supt. Bergeson. In 2004, just prior to the primary election, it was reported by various newmedia throughout the state, that the grading of the WASL had been changed, that allowed more students to pass. Here is one possible example of how this can occur and why we need standard off the shelf national testing. On the 2004/5 4th grade Math WASL, students were asked to name an undescribable geometric object. They basically had a 1 out of 3 or 4 chance of getting it right as they guessed at it. This appeared to me to be unfair question as it was not curriculum related. If this object is changed to a more familiar object such as a circle, triangle, square, ect., which is curriculum related, more students would get it right and scores would automatically rise. Is this really an improvement in the quality of their education? I don't think so. Yet the unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson, dishonest Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft and various other members of her bloated staff of blundering bureaucrats, want to make this worthless fraudulent assessment test an indicator of teacher performance. Is this really what you want your Public School System to become? Our public school students already have enough problems as it is.

After the seesion was over, the legislators asked for public comment and the meeting was adjourned. I was really impressed by Rep. Sharon Santos of the 37th District in Seattle. This lady is sharp and understands what is going on. Her district goes from Madison Ave. to Renton and from the shore of Lake Washington down Rainier Valley. I believe that there are 4 high schoold within this area or border very closely to it; Garfield, Rainier Beach, Franklin and Renton. I'm sure she is very aware of parents comments about these schools. This district is very diverse, and in a sense is a microcosim of the coutry, in terms of races, incomes, education, whatever, and many of these problems are reflected in the schools within her district. I wanted to express to her my concerns about the outright lies that I heard from dishonest Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft. Instead of appearing schocked or concerned, she said welcome to our world. I then mentioned something about the recent standards battle, and actually downplayed the importance of it. She quickly corrected my misconception and stated very emphatically that standards determine the choice of curriculum and very quickly set me straight. I then told her that I felt to be very fortunate to be in the Edmonds school district and she wholeheartedly agreed with me on that. With this kind of quality in our state legislature, I would like to know how the unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson, dishonest Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft and their bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats, can have the audacity to continue to get away with their lies, decetions and half truths?

There are two other very serious problems facing school districts throughout the state and Supt. Bergeson's lack of leadership has only aggravated the problems. The first is adequate funding for schools. Supt. Brossoit of the Edmonds School District has stated this problem very clearly. It costs $8,000/per year to educate each student. The state only provides $5,000 of this amount, creating a shortfall that needs to be covered. Some of the gap is closed by levies and grants, but not all of it. Unfunded mandates by both the federal and state governments are a real problem and are going to destroy the quality of our public school system unless they are responsibly addressed.

There are also lawsuits that are scheduled to be heard next March by the State Supreme Court, defining basic education and special education. I hope this issue is addressed before the nine wiseguys that sit on our Supreme Court hear this case. They have already done enough damage to our school systems. Courts like to deal in precedents. One hundred years ago basic education was defined as K-8, as many children entered the workforce at 14 in order to help support their families. There is nothing to prevent from returning to this concept. High school was a luxury and college was almost unheard of. It pretty much remained this way, until after World War II, when many members of the armed forces took advantage of the educational oppotunities presented by the GI Bill.

There is also a crisis brewing within the teaching ranks. Many very good, experienced teachers are getting very close to retirement and will be retiring in very large numbers very soon. These are the teachers that were born in the 40's, 50's and 60's. These are the teachers that learned math when math was considered math. When they retire so will many of the sound fundamental mathematical teaching principles. This is also a problem that will need to be addressed, or else our public school system will destroyed.

The WASL is a scandal that needs to be exposed from everything from the construction of the test, to the cost of the test, to the damage it is doing to the public education of our children. Where are the newshounds of the news media? I guess their noses don't work anymore, as their managing editors are more beholding to the advertising dollars they receive from corporate members of commissions like Washington Learns, than they are about serving the public. The quality of public education is a parental responsibility as much as anything else. There are about a million students in the Washington State Public School System. I would guess that means there are about 1.5 million parents that are eligible to and more if extended familites are considered. Since the newsmedia appears to be failing its public responsibility to inform the public, I hope you will forward this to your friends, families and co-workers. The truth needs to be told about the WASL.

Nick Daniggelis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done, definitely a fly on the wall that takes good notes and learns fast.