Saturday, April 3, 2004
Readers respond: WASL tests patience of teachers, students
I have a cumulative GPA of 3.6. You would think that I would be able to at least pass all the sections included in the WASL. But I didn't. Not only is the test stressful, it is very hard. I like to think of myself as a smart person, but I had to leave a lot of answers blank. I had never seen half of the stuff on the test before.
They may be part of the answer, but they are not enough. Despite the limitations of all standardized tests, I do believe they are a useful and necessary measurement tool. However, the school district and community need to take the WASL back to the secondary measurement tool it was initially designed to be rather than the primary focus of all curriculum and education into which it has become.
Explorations in Math
U.S. schools are sending into the world too many graduates who cannot read or write well and who do not know some of the basic knowledge needed to make them good workers and good citizens.
We may well be graduating too many students with poor writing and math skills But the mission of public education is to provide a free, age- and ability-appropriate education to all.
Tests can identify those who meet the latest standards, but it is foolish to expect that any amount of retesting or teaching to "standards" is going to raise a writer at fifth-grade level to that of a college prep student with a 1000 SAT. That's about what it takes to pass the unrealistic and poorly constructed WASL test.
As a parent of children who struggled with learning delays throughout their public school education, I can tell you that testing did nothing to encourage, educate or assist them to succeed. What did matter is that our family read, discussed current events and visited all the museums we could find. We disconnected learning from pass or fail. My children knew that their value wasn't tied to a high grade point average. When a child is given a way to learn, without a time clock, that makes sense to them, they will be successful in the long run. Maybe the WASL would be more effective if it were required at age 30.
While it's important to have well-crafted tests to measure student achievement, other factors should be considered as well. As the parent of a learning-challenged child, it frustrates me that the emphasis of teaching to the test precludes learning styles that differ from those required for the WASL. It penalizes students who, for example, may be proficient at solving math problems but don't possess the writing talents to explain their answers. The WASL also has little use for elementary school teachers or students other than to prep them for the big high school do-or-die test. It's totally wasteful that they are unable to use the results to assess areas of weakness.
I'm glad that high schoolers can retake the test, but I hope that those students' fitness for graduation would be based on other factors, as well -- such as an extensive senior project, representative samples of writing skills, community service, oral interviews, overall grades, etc. This is what colleges review.
I have a short answer: No.
My motto is "No child left behind, no teacher left alive."
Julie A. Koons
The cost to create, administer, evaluate and then to apply penalties outweigh any benefits of such test-taking rituals. Children learn from good teaching, good parenting and life experiences. One-shot testing does not create an educated society.
I hate the focus on testing and the backlash I face as a teacher.
I do not believe that any one or two things are the answer to
our educational problems, but I do believe that the WASL and the No Child
Left Behind Act are important and beneficial parts of the answer. I also
believe that the NCLB should have been passed with its original, stronger
provisions for accountability. Ned Moser
I believe the WASL testing does help, but the rigorous training and boring way of presenting it isn't much of a help to students. I know from experience (I'm 13) that fun learning is the best way.
But the No Child Left Behind Act doesn't help. Punishing schools and teachers that don't make the standard is no way to help education.
As a high school student, I'd have to say assessments like the WASL and the No Child Left Behind Act are doing more harm than good. All the WASL does is stress students.
I'm not exactly an A student and neither are most of my friends, but the majority will tell you that the WASL is a reason they dislike school.
The country's education problem is as easy at this: Either a kid cares or not. Either she wants to learn or she doesn't. A test isn't going make underachieving students care about their education.
I think the WASL and the No Child Left Behind Act are not the answer to education problems because they take our attention from the problem and point it somewhere else. They point us to testing, which tells you only about one day of a kid's life. Another problem is that the test is trying to make the kid learn stuff for the test when they need to learn what they need to know in life.
Teaching needs to fit to the children's needs, not the teachers' or the tests' needs.
Henry Antupit, age 10
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