Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on the Race for SPI

From the News Tribune...


An interesting wrinkle in state schools race
Published: September 30th, 2008 12:30 AM

Randy Dorn wasn’t the first choice of WASL opponents.
That honor went to Richard Semler, superintendent of the Richland School District. It was Semler who would carry the issue into the election against 12-year Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.

Semler, who retired in June, wanted to get rid of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning – the test that attempts to assure that students know what we want them to know. He said the test doesn’t do that while consuming too much time, money and psychic energy.
But Semler dropped out when his wife became ill. That left Dorn.

Now, as the former Eatonville principal articulates his positions, it is becoming more clear that he might not be all that WASL opponents – including the Washington Education Association – were hoping for.


A response to the TNT on Dorn - Bergeson from Niki Hayes

Perhaps (your word) "nuance" isn't really the problem when trying to understand the differences between Dorn and Bergeson about the WASL.

States are required to test their students under the No Child Left Behind legislation, or face losing federal dollars. If Washington state wants to give up those federal dollars, then go ahead and drop the student tests. That is bold action, not a nuance.

Meanwhile, remember that we are a test-driven world in which our students' test scores must compete internationally. That is a fact, not a nuance.

The issue is what kind of test is the best test for preparing students for life after graduation, whether that includes college and/or employment, and which allows them to compete globally as leaders and workers.

The WASL, with the same good intentions as most state tests' have been nationwide, has turned out to be lousy in its construction and content. It gives nothing in return for the time and money required to prepare for it, give it, and try to learn something from it, either as a student, parent, or teacher. In mathematics, for example, it tests very little of that discipline, but a whole lot on writing ability. There are other nationally accepted tests that do a much better job of assessing students, for a whole lot less money. And, they would meet the requirement of NCLB as well as give good data for diagnostic teaching.

I know something about this issue. I was a principal and math teacher in Seattle from 2000-2006. I was also a teacher in Texas for 20 years before that, where we have wrestled with the graduation test issue since 1983. Instead of compounding Texas' mistakes (and those of other states in their learning process), I wondered why Washington didn't seek to avoid others' damages to children while we adults "learned."

To say there is "no difference" between the two candidates because they both want "a test" is not a nuance. Student testing is a reality that faces any candidate running for school offices at any level today. Perhaps a story giving more clarity on this issue would be helpful to your readers.

Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
From Peter C. to Niki

Where in the column are the words “no difference?” I assume you read them there because you placed them in quote marks along with “nuance.”NCLB does not require a graduation requirement. It only requires testing to measure adequate yearly progress.
From Niki to Peter C.

My conclusion of "no difference" came from the following sentences in your story:

...Dorn took another position Thursday that blurs the image of him as the WEA’s candidate.
...But Dorn’s positions are not as far from Bergeson’s as first portrayed.

The NCLB still requires statewide standardized testing to which passing to the next grade level may be tied (and has been in several states). The move among many to do away with all benchmark tests in WA schools is behind much of the anger on that very issue: a test should not prevent a student from moving forward, they say.

In today's real world of tests in academic and professional sectors, efforts to rid schools of all standardized testing are misguided. Testing is not bad. It is the content and use of the tests that make them worthwhile-- or not.

Niki Hayes
Peter Callaghan responds to Niki...

Then you exceed what I say. There are clearly differences and I note those. But he is not the anti-WASL candidate he suggests that he is. If the Legislature and if the governor agrees to change tests (and very big “if”), there will still be a “single, high-stakes” test. Schools and teachers will still have to prepare for the tests, they will still have to be administered, they will still lead to failures that will have to be responded to, there will still be a need for remediation, we will still have to alter curriculum (yet again) so it is tied to the test, we will still deny diplomas to kids who don’t meet standards on that test.Educators may see a big difference between a WASL and a new test. But for most students and parents it will look and feel the same.


Anonymous said...

A clear public misunderstanding of standardized testing is that the WASL is presently tied to anything in education, including school funding. It is no where close to fulfilling NCLB. Washington state may still lose federal funding despite the WASL because OSPI cannot provide the DOE with a plan that shows how schools will improve. This involves a scoring and weighted scale for calculating AYP.

The reason for the delay has to do with the stranglehold textbook publishers have on curriculum. It seems Pearson cannot build a test that shows students are anywhere close to achieving with reform math. So while kids using traditional textbooks are scoring better on the WASL, the majority of students using Everyday Math and Connected Math cannot show improvement and in some cases forced to take two classes of math in 7th and 8th grade.

This is not to mention, double doses for students in 11th and 12th grade -- just so they can graduate from high school?

I don't think Dorn has the experience, while Bergeson is just a plain fool.

Sudhakar said...

That Dorn and Bergeson both advocate a test to demonstrate some level of competency in core subjects was not news. I think some people got lulled into thinking that Anti WASL meant "No Testing". No testing is not real world. Getting rid of testing may have procedural implications with NCLB, but it also flies in the face of how Washington gets its graduates to be more competitive in this flat world. Most progressive states and nations have at least one "gate", where a student must demonstrate minimum competency to pass. Granted, the WASL in its current instantiation is horrendously expensive, time consuming, subjective, and misses the point on math. In my opinion, a badly designed test does not make the case for getting rid of all testing. There are a number of high school level tests (ACT, for example), which are less time consuming, less expensive, are nationally normed, accepted by colleges (avoids duplication), and test all core subjects. It should be relatively easy to assign cutoff scores on these tests as minimum requirement for graduation. I cannot fathom why the taxpayers should continue to support a unique, expensive, time consuming, and confusing system of tests.

dan dempsey said...

Sudhakar said:

"I cannot fathom why the taxpayers should continue to support a unique, expensive, time consuming, and confusing system of tests."

If anyone can explain why we are spending an incredible amount of money on State Developed tests to learn almost nothing about high school level accomplishment, please tell me why we have done this.
This seems to fall right in line with the Segmented Math program developed by OSPI..... which according to WSIPP's Wade Cole was totally ineffective in its attempt to improve Math performance for WASL math inadequate high school students.

Why use off the shelf materials, when you can spend lots more and still arrive with an ineffective tool? Typical of OSPI actions over the last decade.

Let us not even bring up the COE...
Collection of Evidence to pass the WASL.....
This is another incredible expenditure of teacher energy and state dollars to make OSPI happy..
so that we can allow more kids to graduate.

Anonymous said...

Yes, segmented math was a total failure, partially because either it was never tested to begin with or else it was tested using the wrong group of students.

I can attest to its ineffectiveness, because I was next door to a class that was using segmented math and I heard it being used without any effect other than the sound of objects hitting the walls.

Had it been effective WASL math scores would have gone up.

One could have made the same conclusing using SAT scores or been sitting in my classroom listening to the yelling that was going on next door to me.