From: Don Orlich []
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 11:36 AM
Subject: 14 page paper
  embargoed until September 20, 2001, NOON.
An Invited Address on Educational Policy
Pullman, Washington Kiwanis Club, September 20, 2001
Dr. Donald C. Orlich
Professor Emeritus, Education and Science Instruction
Washington State University
Pullman, Washington  99164-4237

   Momentum for contemporary American school reform can be traced to the 1983 report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform sponsored by the National Commission on Excellence in Education.  Its most famous (or infamous line, take your pick) states, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre instructional performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."  Using a war metaphor intentionally created, as David Berliner and Bruce Biddle called it, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools, (1995) which is the title of their book.
Background and Perspective
During the 1980's educational reform had a number of
additional factors driving it.  Among them were:
Global economic competition
Economic disparities between socioeconomic groups
Declining wages
Exporting of jobs overseas
New technologies
Renewed business-sector interest in education
Perceived decline in student achievement
Demographic changes in the schools
None of these alone could provide impetus for reform, but
collectively these factors caused public education to become a focal point for social and economic changes.  The current enthusiasm for educational reforms is politically motivated, that is, the drive and energy comes from non-educational sources.  As early as 1988, Bill Chance reported that there were more than 275 educational task forces organized in the U. S., generating scores of reports to "fix the schools". 
  Not to be left out of the action, the nation's governors jumped on the reform bandwagon with their endorsement of President Bush's (that's number 41) National Goals for Education.  These evolved into a package of eight--Goals 2000. 
  All Children in America will start school ready to learn.
  The high school graduation rate will increase to 90 percent.
3. American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign language, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography; and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so that they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.
4. The nation's teaching force will have access to programs for professional development.
  U. S. Students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement.
6. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skill necessary to compete in a global economy and to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

7. Every school in America will be free of drugs and
violence and will offer a safe, disciplined environment   conducive to learning.
8. Every school will promote parental involvement and
participation to promote the social, emotional, and
academic growth of children.
A full plate, no less, would you not agree?
Something Funny Happened on the way to Reform
Somewhere along the way to fixing the schools, somebody--maybe everybody--forgot to ask, "What needs fixing?"  Rather than examining the underlying factors of poverty, race, Third World immigrants, non-English speaking students, dysfunctional families, absenteeism, violence, providing enhanced learning environments, and methods of instruction that work (as opposed to the educational fads that do nothing except make for rich consultants): The reform movement degenerated into a high-stakes testing phenomena!
Kay Johnston and Heidi Ross (2001) came to the same conclusion that the "national discourse on education has narrowed to a single-minded focus on testable standards" (p. 1).
On August 15, 2001, ABC News Commentator, Geraldine Sealey, reported the same focus in "School Daze, Test Craze?"  Just recently, a lawsuit was filed in Indiana requesting an injunction that would prevent Indiana from requiring special education students to pass that state's exit test (Wrightslaw, August 14, 2001).
    In the state of Washington at least $40,000,000 was spent on developing the Washington Assessment of Student Learning
(WASL) and approximately $60,000,000 more was appropriated to revise it.  There are about 30 states now using test scores to rate their schools.  We call them "high stakes tests" because they either reward students, teachers or schools or penalize them.  The rewards and punishments vary.  In California, raises and bonuses are given to teachers; while in Alabama, a school's budget can be enhanced or reduced based on test results.
   A major testing and scoring company, NCS Pearson, made scoring errors in Minnesota resulting in 8,000 students being told that they failed a high school graduation test they had actually passed.  Two years ago in New York City a scoring error by CTB/McGraw-Hill caused nearly 9,000 students mistakenly to be sent to summer school.  NCS Pearson is expected to score 40 million standardized tests this year alone!  (Source: Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post, July 9, 2001.)
      In Washington State the WASL has emerged as the "Mother of all tests" (apologies to Saddam Hussein).  The WASL is touted to be a criterion-referenced assessment, with all questions based on the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs).
However, my examination of the 4th grade practice test showed this claim to be establishment propaganda.  In 1999, I predicted the number of students who would not meet the WASL standard,   i.e., fail it, almost perfectly, only missing the mark by 2.5%.
        What I exposed was a fraud in the mathematics items, which were deliberately made harder and well beyond any fourth graders ability.  On the writing exam, they were required "to write a newspaper-style article explaining their ideas."  Do fourth graders read a newspaper?  (See Orlich 2000b.)  But let us examine just the 1999 fourth grade math WASL scores.
   Using only SPI sources (Study of Grade 4 Math Assessment, September 2000) the following data were published showing the number of children by ethnic group who failed.  (Bergeson 2000, Tables G-10, 11,12, page 86 and Fig. G-3, page 91.)


        Ethnic Group                                        No.  Percent
        African Americans/Black                         (3975)   79%
    Alaskan Natives/Native Americans                (1681)   78%

    Asian/Pacific Islanders                         (2800)   55%
    Latino/Hispanic                                 (5470)   80%

    White/Caucasian                            (31,471)   55%
       Multi-Racial                                            (1207)   66%

    Totals                                             (45,704)   60%

               The Total distribution of 4th grader math scores falls into a classic bell-shaped curve (p. 91).  To get this type of curve on criterion-referenced tests is impossible.  So, I initially concluded that the WASL was in fact an IQ test.  IQ tests yield bell-shaped or normal curves because they describe the outcome of random traits--intelligence, weight, height, shoe sizes.  But when I plugged-in the minority student scores, my hypothesis was rendered invalid, as no minority child would have an IQ of 100 and we know that that conclusion is totally wrong.  My conclusion was changed so that the WASL is simply a Random Meshuggene Quotient!  (If you're not up your Yiddish, that is "craziness.")
But, that still did not account for the errant distribution.  My newest hypothesis is that the WASL is a very expensive predictor of poverty.  To test this hypothesis, data were collected from 27 school districts in the North Central Education Service District.  Using "Free or Reduced Lunch" as the indicator for poverty, I found that 27 of the 27 districts had 35% or more children on free and reduced lunch.  Twenty of the 27 (74%) of the 27 had 60% or more fourth grade pupils fail the WASL, i. e, not meet the arbitrary standard set by the state.
        In this cohort were five school districts that have 56% or more Hispanic students.  These districts had a median WASL flunk rate of 76.5%.  Two districts that were predominately native American (45.8% and 95.4%) had WASL flunk rates of 80.0 and 96.3 percent respectively. Conclusions!
1. The WASL is marvelous predictor of poverty.
2. The WASL shows that non-English speaking students cannot    pass an English writing examination
We can be mighty proud of the WASL and of our state educational leaders who have publicly stated that they are "concerned" about these results.  You bet!
Back to World Class Standards
    Ah, but recall that act of war metaphor.  How bad are we in the world?  Let us examine the top 15 countries and states in the world for science for 13 year olds.  Ready?
       First place (Maestro, a drum roll please) goes to Singapore.  The next 14 medals go to: Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming (NCES 98-500, May 1998).  Did any newspaper proclaim that interesting finding in its front-page headlines or its editorial pages? Don't hold your breath waiting for positive news about public schools from the media.
   How are we doing in this state?   Let's examine science for 13 year- olds. In first place is Bulgaria, followed by the Czech Republic, South Korea, Singapore and in fifth place the Evergreen State.  The kids in Washington also tied 22 other nations and beat 14 others.
      How did the state of Washington's 13 year-olds do in Mathematics in world competition?  The First place goes to Belgium, followed by, Czech Republic, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland and in 12th place is Washington State.
Our children tied 19 other nations and beat 10 others.
    You want World-Class standards?  Well, we have them!
Oh, how many boat loads of Mercer Island or Bellevue children have been caught trying to sneak across the borders into Bulgaria, Hungary or South Korea?  Think about the flow of immigrant traffic and why they come to the good old U. S. of A.!  And please do not forget that the USA and Canada are the only industrialized nations that do not segregate all children between the ages of 11 and 13 into two irrevocable educational tracks--college preparatory and trade school.  Our run-of-the mill 13 year-olds compete very nicely, even without a level-playing field.
And where were the reform pundits on July 11, 2001 when the College Board announced the following?  "A new study of the TIMSS International Study Center shows that Advanced Placement students [in the United States] who score three or higher [on a five point scale] on physics and calculus AP Exams outperform physics and advanced math students from the United States and other countries in mathematics and science achievement?"
     Lee Jones, executive director of the College Board's Advanced Placement Program stated "These results demonstrate that students who do well on the AP Calculus and Physics Exams are indeed at top of the world in academic achievement. . . ."
Was this hidden in the want-ad pages of our newspapers?  Why did it not make front-page reading; or any page reading?
Review of School Reform
    What has been done for school reform?  Quite frankly, nothing of note.  In the state of Washington, we have squandered just under one billion dollars on WASL development (which costs $27 per test to score compared to $2.50 for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills) and other non-empirically tested projects. Included is the highly touted "Schools for the 21st Century."  Let us spend a moment reviewing this political brainstorm.  My major source is from Shirley Basarab's report An Overview of Student Assessment in Washington State (2001) that is yet being delayed publication and dissemination by The Evergreen Freedom Foundation after they requested it.
      Basarab reported that the state of Washington never received a full report on the Schools for the 21st Century project, only a file with a "hodgepodge of 782 pages of disconnected papers and news clipping.  More than half was hand written, scribbled notes" (p. 9).  No comparative test data were provided about these schools and yet, the legislature implemented the state's reform movement on good feelings and high level political badgering.  In 1997, Basarab cited data  (p. 10) compiled from WASL scores comparing the Schools for the 21st Century with the state and private school averages.
   Schools     Reading          Writing       Mathematics
Schools for the 21st Century           38.0%            36.3%           15.3%
State Average     47.0%                    41.7%           21.1%
Private School Average            70.1%            60.8%           37.5%

The state of Washington constructed its entire educational
reform structure on a foundation of sand.  That is the nicest thing I can say.  Frankly, our state's K-12 educational system has been subject to a monumental trail and error experimental failure!
AP Students with a '3 or Higher' Outperform Advanced Math and
Physics Students both in U.S. and Abroad." (July 11, 2001).
     New York:  The College Board, News 2000-2001.  Full report:
E. J. Gonzalez, K. M. O'Connor, J. A. Miles.  (June 2001) How well do Advanced Placement Students Perform on the TIMSS Advanced Mathematics and Physics Tests?  Boston:  The International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College.
Basarab, Shirley.  (2001).  An Overview of Student Assessment in        Washington State.  Olympia: Unpublished Manuscript, 158 pp.

Berliner, David and Bruce Biddle.  (1995).  The Manufactured
Crisis:  Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's
      Public Schools. 
New York: Addison-Wesley.

Bergeson, Terry, et al.  (September 2000). Study of the Grade
4 Mathematics Assessment, Final Report. 
Olympia: State
     Superintendent of Public Instruction, 102 pp.

Goals 2000: Reforming Education to Improve Student Achievement.
(1998).  U. S. Department of Education.  Washington, DC:
US Government Printing Office. 

Fletcher, Michael A.  (July 9, 2001)  "As Stakes Rise, School
Groups Put Exams to the Test: Critics Decry Heavy Reliance
On Standardized Measures."  Washington Post, p. A 01.

"High Stakes Testing: Indiana Judge Asked for Injunction so
  Seniors can Graduate."  (August 14, 2001) Wrightslaw. 

Johnston, Kay and Heidi Ross.  (August 27, 2001).  "Teaching to
Higher Standards--From Managing to Imagining the Purposes
of Education."  Teachers College Record.  ID # 10804.

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. 
(1983).  U. S. Department of Education.  Washington, DC:
U. S. Government Printing Office.     

Orlich, Donald C.  (2000).  "A Critical Analysis of the Grade
Four Washington Assessment of Student Learning." 
Curriculum in Context, 27 (2) Fall/Winter, pp. 10-14.  (On
March 16, 2001, this paper was honored as the "Outstanding
Affiliate Article Award" by the 160,000 member Association
For Supervision and Curriculum Development, at it Annual
Conference in Boston.)

Sealey, Geraldine.  (August 15, 2001).  "School Daze, Test
 Craze?"  ABC News.   Website:

U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
     Statistics, Linking the National Assessment of Educational
      Progress and the Third International Mathematics and
     Science Study: Eighth Grade Results. 
Eugene G. Johnson and
    Adriane Siegendorf.  Project Officer, Gary W. Phillips. 
        Washington, DC: GPO, May 1998, NCES 98-500.

Word Count:  2,434 total

SEE:  Martin L. Abbott and Jeff Joireman. The Relationships Among Achievement, Low Income, and Ethnicity Across Six Groups of Washington State Students.  Washington Research Center, Seattle Pacific University, July 2001.  Jeffrey T. Fouts, Executive Director.  Website <> 
Donald C. Orlich
PO Box 644237
Pullman, WA  99164-4237
(509)  335-4844   FAX (509) 335-7389