Category Archives: WASL

McAuliffe and Oemig Road Show

I went to one of the presentations by Senators McAuliffe and Oemig, and I came away thinking that what they say sounds nice and makes the public happy to hear, but they don’t have anything specific to say except that “the system is broken.” “Thanks, but what can you do to help me?” is what I kept thinking.

I got the sense that Oemig does not understand how levies hurt poorer districts much more than his (Kirkland) and that McAuliffe is scattered in her thoughts sticking mainly to agreed upon talking points. However, both appear to want to help, and I appreciate this. At least they are listening.

Oemig really wanted the teachers to define what a “master teacher” is, but of course no one could do it well. Reminds of the definition of obscenity: know it when I see it. Felt like people trying to define their love of one artist over another: lots of feeling words and appreciation without any quantifiable data.

And Oemig is definitely a data guy. He repeated his desire for good data for teachers without naming what it is. All I know is that I’m inundated with data but receive very little usable information from it most of the time. Plus, I have to fight for so long for access to data that it’s normally useless by the time I get it.

I think I echo Ryan’s thoughts when he said, “it’s very easy to see a path to what the WEA feared all along–the good that made people like the bill will evaporate away a section at a time, and what we’ll all have left is onerous new certification requirements and more bureaucracy.” Everything suggested was followed by “but we have to find the money to do it” with no definites detailing from where the increased revenue would come.

I spoke once for about five minutes near the end of the session about the following items, each very briefly:

  • the lack of trust in teachers and the collegiate certification process (thus so many extra requirements),
  • attacking symptoms instead of diseases (i.e. adding certification requirements when not satisfied with the collegiate certification process instead of fixing the problem at the collegiate level),
  • how schools are microcosms of the societies in which they reside,
  • solving social ills must be alongside solving educational ills (pay now for the play pen or later for the state pen), and
  • how time is critical for teachers (grading time, prep time, large class sizes require extra time, useless extras like state required culminating projects, etc.).

Anyone else seen the presentations?

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Tiger Woods and the State Test

You know, I tire of the commentators’ beef with Tiger Woods not winning every tournament he enters. Sometimes people just have a bad day or a bad few days. I think about this with a few of the students I would expect to easily pass the state test, and then they just have a bad day. It happens.

Tiger Woods just barely missing a few putts at the U.S. Open is like the kid who misses a couple points here and there and those putts and points add up. Bad days occur; they just do.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum we have David Duvall who made more money in the U.S. Open this weekend than he has the last four years on the PGA Tour. I’ve had kids who haven’t passed a thing all year and then pass the state test. Sometimes good days happen, too.

The first baseball game in high school I ever played I had three doubles and a walk. Then I went 0 for everything the next two weeks. That’s how I got my nickname “O-fer” because each day my box score read “0 for 3” or “0 for 4” and so on. This is also how I became a pitcher instead of a fielder and hitter. But again, good days happen.

My point with this, which I have very slowly lead this post to, really is that I feel for the kids who barely miss a passing score on the state test and those who should’ve passed it and didn’t. My school–with no consideration of just a bad test day–forces students to take a reading and writing class for students who failed the state test (if those sections were not passed) or a remedial math class (if that section was failed). No questions. No exceptions. That’s it.

I guess I don’t like high stakes testing in the first place, but I also don’t like the idea that some kids are pigeon-holed based on a single measure. Maybe I’m just a case by case kinda guy.

Oh, and I bet you that Tiger comes storming back to win a few titles very soon. (He almost came back this weekend despite such a bad start to his tournament.)

Are We Pushing Kids Too Hard?

A new requirement in California forces every 8th grader to enroll in Algebra and take a proficiency exam. This will be the first time students must take an upper-level math test prior to entering high school.

The hope is that “the new policy will push school districts to ensure that eighth-graders are ready for the demands of algebra.” In today’s educational arguments, the predominant position among politicians and the business community seems to center on pushing students harder and on forcing students to take higher level coursework earlier in their educational journeys. Continue reading

A Robin Hood Effect

One of my criticisms of NCLB is that it causes too many schools to focus all of their attention on the bottom 25% of a school’s population while ignoring the middle- and upper-level students. Some of the effects of this focus in my school are:

  • fewer upper-level course choices in order to create more lower-level courses,
  • larger class sizes for middle- and upper-level students because of smaller class sizes for low achievers,
  • teacher time used to create new courses for lower-level students rather than refining other courses,
  • school resources (support, supplies, etc.) diverted away from the majority to the minority,
  • less teacher time for upper-level students because of the forced paperwork and attention on the lowest achieving students,
  • curriculum cuts to lower the bar for students (to create higher passage rates), and
  • the focus of the school’s efforts being on the teachers’ shoulders rather than placing a focus on the parents’ and students’ involvement as well. Continue reading

Is the State Test Needed?

Washington State’s mandatory test, which needs to be passed to receive a diploma, is called the WASL. Recent articles have noted the recent announcement that 91% of the students passed—if you do not count the students who dropped out.

By my figuring, this means about 68% of the original class of 2008 passed the state test. The education gurus generally list Washington’s graduation rate as 71%, which seems to imply that the $113 million we pay annually for the WASL is really just confirming what we already know about the kids we already know have problems.

What do we do instead?

Proctoring the Test

It’s state testing day number 6 today! Woo-hoo!

I’m amazed how much time it takes to give our state test, the WASL. Just reading the scripted introduction
and providing the instructions can take ten minutes. Then, the exam itself takes 2-3 hours per test. Yikes! Those poor kids.

On the bright side, I love proctoring the WASL. It’s 12 hours this week to grade thesis papers and projects, which I assigned last week so I could score them all this week. Worked like a charm. I’m busy. Kids are busy. I’m happy. Kids are…quiet.

I hope your testing days go as well.