The WASL sucks

Courtesy of Andrew Wahl

As the father of an 8-year-old, I have to say that I hate the WASL. I have nothing against using standards to measure performance, but this stupid, rigid, top-down testing regime has turned our classrooms into the public school equivilent of a Stanley Kaplan test prep class.

Here’s hoping we develop a thriving local industry in taking WASL tests, because that’s about the only job for which some of our kids are going to be prepared.


  1. 1

    Loganite spews:

    The WASL is here to stay, but it is being used for something it was not designed to do. Full disclosure: I am a high school English teacher in Eastern Washington.

    As part of the education reform which began in 1993 (HB 1209), the Legislature (full of education experts) developed a set of benchmarks for learning (Essential Academic Learning Requirements or EALRs) and a statewide test that was designed to test the educational system itself. The test would show educators whether the skills that should be taught were being taught. The WASL would show whether students learned the EALRs. In 2001, though, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly called the “No Child Left Behind” Act, which required testing at certain grades and a requirement for each school to make “adequate yearly progress” toward improvement, with a goal of 100% success by 2014. The Feds allowed each state to determine its test, and some states, like Texas, used simpler tests; Washington had already spent time and money developing the WASL and stuck with it. The WASL was ranked the third-toughest test of all states. The Legislature also made the WASL into a graduation requirement.

    The problem is not the test itself. It is a test that raises the bar, and it is something that a student should be able to pass at the end of his or her sophomore year. Data from my school district show that students who have been in the district for their entire schooling do well on the WASL; they have been part of our planned scope and sequence. Problem is, we change a quarter of our students between the 4th and 7th grade WASLs, and change another quarter by the 10th grade WASL. That means only half of our students have been with us for 10 years of learning. They come to us from other states with different curricula and standards and from other countries with different systems and languages.

    If a student has been in the school system over one year, he or she must take the WASL. In English. It’s pretty heart-wrenching to watch a sophomore who has been in our country for just over a year struggle to take the WASL when he doesn’t understand the questions. Most students with special needs are also required to take the WASL; only the most severe students are excused.

    The WASL has some tough spots. Showing work, as some have noted, is one aspect. Another example is the writing section tasks, which require a score of 9 of 12 to meet standard. On those tasks, a student must earn a nearly perfect score (3 of 4 points) in conventions (spelling and grammar) in order to pass. That means one of the two prompts must be perfect, but the other could contain moderate errors. If a student has otherwise excellent responses, he might not pass because of some spelling errors. Of course, conventions are important, but they are disproportionately influential in the scoring.

    The impact of the WASL has been that teachers are teaching a more standardized curriculum (the EALRs), but there is also a sacrifice of some of the creative and inspirational lessons that had to be pushed aside. A teacher’s professional judgment on how to best teach the students in his or her class is no longer valued. Instead, it is the structured cookie-cutter protocol necessary to prep students for the big test.

    At some point, huge numbers of students in our state will realize they won’t pass the WASL and, in frustration, will just drop out. What is the cost to our state then? The whole program may have backfired and pushed MORE unskilled people into a workforce where jobs for unskilled laborers are increasingly scarce.

  2. 2

    Mark spews:

    Caleb @ 34

    So, if an entire school can’t figure the square root of 9, everyone gets a “pass?”

    There SHOULD be pressure on teachers and students. Why? Because there is pressure in real life. Don’t you want the brain surgeon working on you to have passed every terrifyingly difficult test in school with flying colors?

    If everything is relative, what does a diploma stand for? That piece of paper certifies a minimum level of mastery of academics. Without standards, that piece of paper is worthless.

    AFAIK, the WASL has a minimum score for “pass,” so you DO have some measure of relative performance in addition to the minimum standard to receive the diploma. And if a kid can’t pass, why not hold them back a year? Because they won’t feeeeellll good about themselves?

    A rising tide lifts all boats. It is our obligation as parents and citizens to set expectations of our “educators” and students. Otherwise, too many of them just “phone it in” and America slips another notch.

  3. 3

    Caleb White spews:

    The answer seems pretty simple to me. Instead of a high stakes make it or break test, why not simply require that students take the test and put their score and the average for their class on their permanent transcripts. This has the advantage of allowing comparisons between students from different schools, but removes some of the pressure for educators and students. Why reduce 4 years of high school to a binary measure of pass/fail. Instead, everyone completes high school and some do better at it than others. The more information everyone has the better; inflexible constraints only serve to reduce social welfare.

  4. 4

    Mark spews:

    Here’s an even better idea — require all 12th grade kids to pass oral boards in order to graduate, just like kids in Europe. My brother — a bright guy and excellent student (has an MBA & another masters) — went to “13th grade” in Germany after US high school and before US college. You want test pressure? Put the kid, alone in a chair, in front of a panel of five professors who demand proper and complete answers to every question. No bonus points for “a good try.”

  5. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    Neome, you said:

    “The teachers hate it too – at least the ones I’ve spoken to. It really is an intrusion of “the state” into the teacher-child-parent relationship. Its use as the single criterion for graduation – and a criteria of school success – results in a substitution in the educational arena of the judgment of educators with the judgment of bureaucrats.”

    Actually, that is exactly why I think we need the tests. The “teacher-child-parent relationship” is not an equal partnership. I know – I’ve tried to fight the system with teachers who didn’t care but knew how to work the system, and I lost. There are lots of good teachers out there (my daughter’s high-school math teacher gets the highest marks in my book), but there are a lot of them who know how to work the system, win advancement by promoting “process” over “results”, and to disguise their failure at actually teaching anything by fudging the grading. Some teachers will give passing or even good grades to students just to avoid parental complaints or a strong examination of their teaching methods. Who are those teachers? Nobody knows – there is no way to measure what their students actually learned in their classes. (Note: some colleges are now refusing to consider high-school GPA’s in admission criteria because it is subjective and many of their “4.0 GPA” admissions have to be placed in remedial studies courses). An “A” grade is the norm, now.

    By the way – my mother was an English teacher for twenty years in high school and junior high school. My sister and I learned a lot about English grammer by sitting at the kitchen table and helping her grade papers. Unfortunately, spelling skills didn’t transfer to me quite so easily. Even then she would complain that students were promoted who didn’t possess rudimentary English skills. She would be appalled now.

    Also – why do we hold back an elementary-age student an entire grade if they don’t master one subject? It seems we could come up with a better solution than that.

  6. 6

    Disgruntled spews:

    Noemie, have you looked at the WASL? It is a REALLY EASY test. Any high school kid who can’t pass the math part of the WASL simply doesn’t know math. You could be the worst 10th grade test taker in the universe and pass the WASL if you simply had an average understanding of math for your age.

    That’s the point. The WASL shows that our kids (and I have three in school, two Catholic, one public, and all take the WASL) are not getting the education we are paying for. We’ve been fooling ourselves for years.

  7. 7

    righton spews:

    noemie, yawn…

    Work success is also an aptitude. Too dumb or lazy for WASL, means too dumb or lazy to hold a good job. Yeah, exceptions occur, but by and large, i’m right, youre wrong..

  8. 8


    I understand from friends who are teachers or otherwise education experts that the WASL is, as tests go, well-designed. My 12-year old son is a good test-taker so doesn’t have to worry.

    That said, I see this use of the test as a requirement for high school graduation as a form of child abuse. Children who are not good test takers are valued less by their schools. I have heard of a child being advised to drop out of school by his counselor — with the feeling being that he was not wanted because his low WASL score would bring down the collective score of the school. I am sure this is not the only case. And I am sure that many students feel devalued, unwanted — like losers — because they know they’re not contributing to the status and success of their schools.

    Test taking is an aptitude — you are either naturally good at it, or not. It may predict success in college. Fine. But public school does not serve just the college-bound – it serves all students. A high school diploma has attained symbolic as well as practical status as an indicator of worthiness/competence. Excluding a large number of students — or creating in them fear of exclusion — is cruel, gets them at the level of self-worth.

    And the amount of time that is spent in classrooms teaching students how to take these tests is almost beyond belief. Months are spent on this. The teachers hate it too — at least the ones I’ve spoken to. It really is an intrusion of “the state” into the teacher-child-parent relationship. Its use as the single criterion for graduation — and a criteria of school success — results in a substitution in the educational arena of the judgment of educators with the judgment of bureaucrats. I see this as part of a much larger trend where the expertise of those who really know a field is pushed aside by the bureaucracy that does not care about the subject matter — only about some extrinsic criteria of success.

    We see this in media — where the judgment of journalists is substituted with the judgment of business owners who care only about the bottom line.

    We see it in medicine, where the doctor-patient relationship is violated by the state.

    We saw it with the Iraq war. The military experts advised against it and, once we were in it, the military experts advised on the best way to pursue it. All that advice was pushed aside by the bureaucrats, in this case ideologically and economically motivated. And now, mayhem.

    In such a situation — where we have made a cultural decision to ignore the knowledge, skill, and wisdom that comes from long years of studying and experience, that comes from truly knowing the subject – is it any wonder that we are seeing a degradation of knowledge? Is it any wonder that our children are not learning as they should? If we don’t value knowledge, the knowledge of our teachers, doctors, journalists, and military experts — don’t we sent a subtle message to our children that knowledge is not really important? No wonder curiosity is dying.

  9. 10

    DustinJames spews:

    I hate the fact that my H.S. diploma with physics, chemistry, and calculus is equal to the special ed H.S. diploma where they were reading books I read in 2nd and 3rd grade, and division was causing big headaches. Go WASL Go.

  10. 12

    Janet S spews:

    Thomas – I have heard before that the WASL is a good predicter of college success. Do you have the study that says this? I’d be curious if they only looked at the WASL, or if they included ITED or any other standardized test. I suspect that WASL and ITED correlate, but have no proof.

    I have my disagreements with the WASL, but until something as rigorous is proposed, I say it stands. My daughter has to take it this year as a sophomore, in order to graduate. I have no doubt that she will pass all parts with high marks, so I’m possibly not a good critic.

  11. 13

    Mark spews:

    Careful, Dr. E, you’ll get tarred and feathered by the Far Left for promoting radical ideas like that.

    As I’ve mentioned in earlier threads on this site, I think one of the biggest problems with US education is the love affair we have with sending kids to college. Some kids just aren’t made for college and trying to force those square pegs into round holes likely does more to damage their allegedly fragile self-esteem than giving the kid a bad grade. Also, there is NO SHAME in being a mechanic or a carpenter or working in any other trade. The GOOD thing is that WA L&I is looking at expanding the apprenticeship programs — perfect for kids that aren’t college-bound.

    I would love to see a “kinder, gentler” version of the German system that seeks to identify kids early on who are better suited for trades vs. universities.

    The one thing we can do right now is to take the “go to college” social pressure off of kids who don’t show the aptitude.

  12. 14

    Caleb White spews:

    kneejerks @ 35,36

    I believe you missed the whole point of my post. If everybodies scores are public then you can decide for yourself whether the person is competent for whatever position you are considering them for. With the current system there is no way to distinguish the brain surgeon from the guy who just barely passed and ends up working at Mcdonalds.

    Why should the diploma “stand” for anything? All it says is you passed some easy test. No serious person would judge someones competence by whether they had a high school diploma. A better measure is high school GPA. Unfortunately, not all high schools are equal. Some are more rigorous than others. Thus the idea of a standardized test, to allow comparisons between high schools. However a bright kid who goes to a crappy school and lives in a broken home is probably not going to do as well on these standardized tests. Some people might be interested in that, some might not. If we include an average score for the kid’s high school class, then you have some measure that is correlated with the kid’s overall school quality and you can judge for yourself.

    Are you starting to follow my logic yet? It’s not about punishing kids that are unfortunate enough to be born intellectually disadvantaged. It seems like conservatives are all about vengence and punishment and the wrathe of god. How about working on solutions to problems. Not everybody is going to be above average and we need to allow people to sort themselves out. The more measures that are available, the better they can do that.

    Consider this, if every job requires a high school diploma (or GED), in the end, one way or another, everyone is going to have a high school degree. Instead wouldn’t it make more sense to provide everyone with a minimum of 12 years of public education and then make transcripts and standardized test scores public information and allow employers, rather than the government, to evalute whether the students were adequately prepared.

    As for teacher competence, if you want better teachers, pay more money. It is always irritates me when people complain about poor service at some fast food restaurant. Of course, they screw up your order. There is a good reason the food is so cheap. It’s because they pay the workers so little, so only people who are not smart enough to work somewhere else work there. If you want competent service go to a nicer place and pay more money. If you want good teachers pay enough money, so people are fighting for the positions and there isn’t a chronic teacher shortage.

    The only thing conservatives ever add to the debate is vitriol, anti-intellectual hostility, and a desire to harm other people.

  13. 15

    Dr. E spews:

    Mark, they can go ahead and tar and feather me — I’ve got more than enough liberal colleagues in academy who feel the same way.

  14. 16

    DocDave spews:

    Well, (take with whatever grain of salt you wish, as I’m a ridiculously over-educated white-bred who loves intellectual challenges and tests well) I have some affinity for requiring a demonstration of aptitude before one is certified. Flight school, medical school, high school… whatever.

    However, I’m well aware that I grew up and was educated in exceptional surroundings. Geopolitics, astrophysics… you name it – all were common at our dinner table. My family prepared us for educational success.

    Given that, I have to wonder if the WASL will serve the children of families that don’t value education, that struggle with English – or just struggle to meet their family’s basic needs.

    Will we be better off for having herded their children through test-prep drills? Will they be better prepared for the world?

    ALternatively, should we be teaching them how to learn? Would problem solving and creative thinking be better skills if they need to adapt and overcome challenges?

    I guess we’ll find out. God help us if we’re wrong.

  15. 17

    Puddybud spews:

    ASSHeads: The problem is you all expect the teachers to teach our children by themselves when we should be partners in our children’s education process. Both my sons easily passed the WASL exam. But how about dem teachers?

    Google this: “Teacher Certification Exam Fail” and watch out, your eyes may bug out!

  16. 18

    Dr. E spews:

    “Here’s an even better idea – require all 12th grade kids to pass oral boards in order to graduate, just like kids in Europe.”

    You know, Mark, I like that idea. Really and honestly. As a nation we’d have a fighting chance if we educated our students to that extent. Of course, you’d need to start with the teachers — at least the high-school level ones — and have them pass a set of oral exams displaying their knowledge of the material and competence to teach. It probably wouldn’t hurt to do the same with unviersity professors in credentialing programs, although I imagine many would welcome it. (They ought to be used to it, in any case.)

    I vote yes: bring the Abitur to the US.

  17. 19

    Mark spews:

    Goldy @ 2: “Mark, so I gather from your comment that you have a child in the public schools, and that you spend a lot of time in the classroom?”

    Wrong. I have TWO kids in public schools and I spend a lot of time in the classroom. I’ve also devoted time helping to oversee/advise business & voc education for the local high school (where I don’t even have a kid).

    Don’t get me wrong… Not all teachers are bad. In fact, many are very good. But there are also tenured, apathetic, overpaid cancers that suck resources out of the system. And you still have the politically correct assemblies (with obligatory handouts) every other day.

    Tell me, Goldy, how does your daughter feeeeeellll about 2+2?

  18. 20

    Gerald T spews:

    Can you comment on
    this story
    Goldy? Its regarding the sex offender notifications, and a bill
    the Democrats are trying to pass. The bill leaves committee tomorrow, and it’s the perfect time to force the media to talk about it. It should pass committee sometime around 3:30 tomorrow.


  19. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    The WASL, like other states’ desperate efforts to comply with “No Child Left Behind”, measures the fitness of our children to become model members of the underclass in George W. Bush’s America.

  20. 23

    Gerald T spews:

    Our highschoolers are getting dumber and dumber. The WASL may be distracting kids from certain aspects of learning, but it is helping kids learn things like reading, writing, and math. It is also forcing school districts to stay tough.

    But you’re, why stop there. I’m a college student, and I realize that college students are getting dumber and dumber as well. Should there also be a test for WA colleges? I would hate the idea.

    Hence, I am a hippocrit,

    For fun:
    Some Stephan Posts from 1993

  21. 24

    Goldy spews:

    Mark, so I gather from your comment that you have a child in the public schools, and that you spend a lot of time in the classroom? I’ll spend half the day in my daughter’s classroom tomorrow, as I do every other Tuesday morning, and I’ll look for all that art and music and politically correct history you talk about.

  22. 26


    Goldy, have you seen the WASL? From what I understand, it’s not your average standardized test. In fact, much up it is actually hand graded. I’m not a big “test guy” but I don’t want to bail on it just yet.

  23. 27

    Mark spews:

    OK… get rid of the WASL.

    And get rid of teacher tenure. Cut down on the “celebrate diversity assemblies” that take up half the day. Get rid of the “how do you feeeel about that answer” math and go back to teaching basic algorithms.

    By the way… that cartoon is WAY off base. If anything, kids in today’s schools learn nothing but art and music and politically correct history.

    Kids learn fewer and fewer things in school that will help them survive in the real world. The only time they really get attention is if they’re gifted writers or artists. Then, suddenly the schools have all kinds of resources to “nurture” them.

  24. 28

    Dr. E spews:

    I further wouldn’t mind seeing all public universities administering standardized tests that diagnose whether a student has the capacity to function as a college student, i.e. write in full sentences (with proper spelling and grammar), be able to solve reasonably complex problems, display the ability to construct and defend a rational argument, etc. You’d probably see enrollments drop by 80% overnight, but to be fair a lot of these kids don’t belong in post-secondary education, and end up dragging the level down in many places, creating an unacceptable (and sometimes unacceptably necessary) level of mediocrity in the classroom.

    With that said, I don’t mind being the internal control mechanism, giving F’s where they are due…

  25. 29

    Mark spews:

    Caleb @ 41: “As for teacher competence, if you want better teachers, pay more money.”

    According to the teachers’ union, the average teacher makes $45,000 a year. Considering that they only work ten months a year, that translates to $54,000 a year — not a bad living. Starting salary is just under $30,000 — translates to $36,000. And don’t start on the “teachers have to take continuing education in their off months.” Lawyers do it, doctors do it, hair stylists do it…

    “The only thing conservatives ever add to the debate is vitriol, anti-intellectual hostility, and a desire to harm other people.”

    I’m guessing you’re a knee-jerk liberal who didn’t do well in school? Funny thing is that Dr. E and I don’t always see eye to eye on other political issues, but we both seem to care a lot more about the future of children and this country.

    It is YOU who misses the point of this discussion. The WASL tests the most basic requirements to graduate. It isn’t about sorting your life out. It is about determining if the child is failing him-/herself or if the parents or teachers or “the system” is failing the child. It isn’t like there is one big test at the end of twelve years. There are many tests over many years that should give warning signs.

    The core mission of the education system is to teach our children to read, write, do math… to give them the tools to be productive citizens. Yes, they can learn about art and music and sports… but the main job of schools is to provide basic education. The WASL tells you, me and everyone else whether the child received that education because it determines whether that child gets a diploma.

  26. 30

    Mamaglo spews:

    Mark, it sounds like you have some issues with your kids’ schools such as assemblies every other day and the PC/diversity garbage. At my school, we have 2 or 3 assemblies per year and one fundraising effort at the beginning of the year. If your schools are doing more of that, you need to take it up with them! State law mandated a shared leadership team be in place at every school. That team is to be composed of teachers, community members, and parents. The committee is to deal ONLY with student achievement issues. To me, if your school is wasting so much time on assemblies, that is a student achievement issue in that they are taking way too much time away from academics. If I were you, I would find out when the SLT (shared leadership team) meets, and get on it. If they don’t have one, they NEED one. Unfortunately, at my school, there is one parent on our committee, no community members, and about 8 teachers. So much for parent and community involvement.

    As for the pc/diversity garbage, you and I see eye to eye on that. When I received an email that told me to get a sub and show up for an all day diversity training, I deleted it, and never went. I didn’t get another email about it either!! HA! Let’s stress our similarities rather than our differences. And, let’s spend our time teaching core subjects instead of playing.

    And, we don’t ask our kids how they “feeeeel” about 2 + 2 either, as you mentioned in an earlier message. However, we do stress that there is more than one way to get the right answer in a math problem.

    Back to the WASL, I am all for high standards. My problem with the WASL is that it is one of two requirements, the other one being credits, in order to earn a high school diploma. I think we need a broader base of requirements than that such as a minimum GPA. Right now, as far as I know, the minimum GPA is 1.0 or D. D is done, as some of the kids like to say. I say that’s garbage. Let’s not accept that. I know grades can be subjective, too, but those students who work to achieve them are still following what they should be doing. Employers want employees who will do what they ask them to do, so jumping that hoop IS helping to prepare students for the future as well as learning to read, write, and do math.

    I do think many more of our high schoolers WILL pass the WASL this year than have passed in previous years. The main reason is because it now means something. Many of our high schoolers have been refusing to take the test, leaving whole sections blank. However, I still feel the test needs to be changed so that it doesn’t have misleading, “trick” questions.

    As for retirement, by double dipping, do you mean getting a teacher retirement and then going back as a “retire, rehire”? or do you mean then earning a second state retirement? And, by the way, “retire, rehire” wouldn’t be necessary at all if we were attracting and keeping enough replacement teachers to fill the spots of those retiring. Many of today’s new teachers figure out in a short time that teachers are definitely not appreciated in today’s society the same as they used to be. And, by the way, the curriculum is much more challenging NOW than it was when I went to high school, and it is much more challenging than in the “good, old days” (log cabin or whatever your good old days were). This myth that the curriculum has been dumbed down is baloney, at least not in my district. If your district allows feel good assemblies every other day like you day they do, then you’ve got a problem you need to see changed.

  27. 31

    mamaglo spews:

    Mark (Mark of the beast?) @ 51

    I have no problem with funneling students off towards trade school or other avenues other than college. As I said, I’d like to see a workfarm, or boot camp for those who refuse to do what they are asked to do whether that be poor behavior or refusing to do any work. In my district, we have a “Skills Center” that kids can go to in high school to learn trades such as chef, auto mechanic, carpenter, etc. We aren’t planning to send those kids to college. They are going to the job market about as soon as they graduate from high school, or further trade training.

    I’ve been a teacher since 1974. I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference and felt there were changes that could be made. What I have found is that MOST people in the teaching profession are very hard working, dedicated folks. There are a few bad apples, but you are going to find that anywhere. If you want to eliminate teachers who end up there too long and grow to hate what they are doing, then work with the state about the ridiculous retirement system. You have to teach until you are 65 now in order to get a full retirement. I’m not in that plan, thank goodness. I can’t imagine teaching until 65! It takes too much energy for one thing.

    As far as holding anyone’s feet to the fire, the people we need to hold to the fire are the students and the parents. I have actually had a parent tell my principal that he wanted his daughter moved out of my room because I was holding her feet to the fire! She was getting all F’s, but daddy just wanted her to be happy. We have a lot of parents like that, and if they have no control over their kids, then we can’t do a thing with them. By the way, I teach math and science at the middle school. My students are 11 and 12, and plenty of their parents have told me they don’t know what to do with them. So, believe me, it isn’t the schools that are failing. It is the families. Schools are a mirror of society. If society is failing, then the schools will be also. My students who have parents that are with it and a work ethic, as well as respect for adults, are doing very well.

  28. 32

    Mamaglo spews:

    I think everyone is missing the point with the WASL. How many of you have taken a sample test to see how you would do? What you don’t realize is this test is hand scored (think subjective) and even when a roomful of teachers score a test, they don’t come up with the same score. The reason you must teach the students HOW to take the test is because the questions are “trick” questions. There are unwritten rules about how they must be answered. For example, if the question says “Compare and contrast two novels you have recently read” (which by the way has been a 10th grade question in recent years), you must have concrete examples from each book that will show how the two novels are alike and concrete examples from each book that will show how the two books are different. Keep in mind that you won’t know ahead of time that you will be comparing and contrasting two novels, and even if you did know ahead of time, you wouldn’t be able to bring the books with you. How many of you could answer that question off the top of your head? There is a variety of math questions. A few are multiple choice, then there are those that require short answer or a longer response. Some of the short answer questions are worth two points and some are worth 4 points. If you get the right answer, but don’t show your work, you get 1 point. If you are able to do any of it in your head, and don’t write it down, you are penalized. Therefore, the students MUST be taught HOW to take the test. The WASL is not a standardized test in that it is rewritten every year (to prevent cheating). In my experience, that means there can be misleading, hard to understand, or poorly written questions every time.

    Keep in mind, also, that it costs $45 to handscore each test. I would think we could come up with something better than that. A few years ago, ALL of the tests statewide had to be rescored. Why? Too many students passed, so it was felt that there was a problem with the scoring. And, guess what? After the tests were rescored, fewer students passed. Does that sound like subjective grading or what? I would like to see all of you who are so crazy about this test take a sample test and see how you do.

  29. 33

    Mark spews:

    Loganite @ 46

    Do you suggest scrapping minimum requirements altogether? And if a student cannot speak English, why is it that they’re entitled to a diploma? If an American child were to go over to Japan or Germany, I would highly doubt they would get a diploma simply for attendance.

    There are two problems here. First, is the fact that high school diplomas in the US are basically worthless. Over the years, “educators” (and I use the term very loosely when I talk about some of them — especially hardcore unionists) have found every way possible to move kids through the pipeline — regardless of whether they are qualified or not. Why? Because too many failing or held back kids would reflect poorly on the job a teacher is doing. Also, there is that whole touchy-feely issue. A system much more like college, where grades mix in the classroom, would be a start.

    The other problem is societal. The American public is blindly ga-ga over the idea of every child going to college. That is a HUGE mistake. For one, some kids simply aren’t psychologically or developmentally built for it. Some simply don’t have the interest or have interests that aren’t served by the college environment. As I’ve discussed here before (and above), a system of routing kids toward vocational school as a valid alternative to college should be implemented. There is no shame in being an auto mechanic and some of them make good money, too.

  30. 34

    Loganite spews:

    Mark @ 47
    Of course I don’t advocate scrapping minimum requirements altogether. I don’t know anyone who does. I am saying the WASL as written may not be the most appropriate way to measure what our students know. Is it fair that a student, who may have spent little time in school in another country and who probably learned little English, be forced to take a test in English even though he or she may actually have the knowledge to pass a test if given in a native language? No, it is not.

    I am a “hardcore unionist,” but the teachers union is not wholly to blame for bad teachers. I support the union protecting the rights of employees and upholding the agreement signed by the district and union. Any poor employee can be terminated within two years. Evaluate in Year 1 and give a plan for improvement. At the end of Year 2, if there has not been improvement, say good bye. It is just that simple, and it is in place in pretty much every school district. I don’t want my union working to protect those employees who shouyld not be teaching. I do want protection from vindictive administrators or expectations that are unrealistic.

    I have over 100 teaching colleagues. I don’t know anyone who passes students for fear of being seen as too harsh or that too many F’s would reflect poorly on the teacher. In two classes of the same subject, I had 53 students last term; 11 earned F’s. The reason in every situation is failure to complete work. How am I supposed to be judged as a teacher when I have nothing to grade because the students did not do or turn in the assignment?

  31. 35

    Thomas Trainwinder spews:

    How do teachers know if they’re successful?

    Did you know the WASL is a better predictor of college success than any other test?

    Seat time is the old way. Standards is the new way. Gotta figure out if kids are learning.

    As the parent of an 8-year old, you should be delighted that 1) your student will be held to high standards and 2) your teachers will have detailed information about how to ensure your child learns at his/her own speed most effectively.

    Care to retract?

  32. 36

    Libertarian spews:

    I say let’s keep some sort of test for kids to pass to merit a high school diploma. Maybe that test isn’t the WASL, but there should be something that measures basic knowledge and the ability to apply it.

    Perhaps one of the problems with education today is the practice of promoting children to the next grade level who have not mastered the work at the current grade. When I was in school, it wasn’t all that rare that a kid failed a grade.

    No matter what test we develop, there will be some kids who can’t master it. In that case, those kids shold be given “certificates of attendance” rather than diplomas.

  33. 37

    mamaglo spews:

    By the way, Mark, I am still laughing about “mamaglo” being a neon paint for strippers. Actually, when my kids were in high school, their friends called me glo, and it evolved to mamaglo. Nothing quite so exotic.

  34. 38

    Mamaglo spews:

    Mark @ 47, I am also a teacher. You said teachers are passing students on. That is completely untrue. It is nearly impossible as a teacher to hold any students back. The parents have the last say and it doesn’t matter how much school a child missed, how poorly they are doing, or how many classes they are failing, their parents don’t want them held back. On a rare occasion, if you find a parent who wants to hold their child back, then you have to fight the administration and the school board. Take a poll of teachers and most of them would say we need to keep kids in elementary school until they can read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Then, and only then, should we send them on to middle school.

    I agree with Loganite, my students who have failing grades, those who are “left behind” are leaving themselves behind. They don’t listen, they don’t pay attention, they don’t do the work in class, and they don’t do the homework. I have no problem giving those students an F, but they still go on to the next grade the next year. We have no authority at all. We cannot make a student do their work. If I were in charge, I would kick any student who was disrespectful and/or did not do any work out of school. We need work farms for them, and maybe then they would want to come back to school and do what they should do.

  35. 39

    Mark spews:

    Loganite (is to Rossi what Kryptonite is to Superman?) &
    Mamaglo (Neon paint worn by strippers):

    Perhaps we’re not as far apart as you’d think. My core point is that we should NOT be handing out diplomas like Domino’s flyers on the streetcorner.

    Since both of you are teachers, can you tell me what (if anything) you have against moving toward a multi-track system like they have in Germany? I’m not saying we need to be heartless or have some sort of a quasi-eugenics program going, but why must we make college the only socially acceptable goal? It is a waste of resources and I think it does the non-college kids more harm than good.

    And, by the way, I think there are some excellent teachers out there. There are teachers in my family and I also have teachers as friends. I just get frustrated with the bad ones that drag the whole system down — be it that they don’t know the material, that they don’t really like kids (or grew to hate them?) or that they somehow take that whole “molding young minds” thing WAAAAYYY too far and wander away from teaching core skills.

    I don’t know that the WASL is the right solution, but it is what we have right now. And parents encouraging their kids to walk out on the test doesn’t do anyone any good (and actually hurts the school).

    Perhaps the best solution is for parents to keep on top of what their kids are learning. If the skill level isn’t there and the parent has made sure the kid is studying and that there are no psychological issues, the parent should absolutely hold the teachers’ and school’s proverbial feet to the fire until the situation is rectified.

  36. 40

    Mark spews:


    Yes, parents and students to bear responsibility.

    As I said before, the “feet to the fire” comment applies only after it is determined that the kid IS doing their homework and that there aren’t any psych or developmental issues in the way. When dealing with pre-HS kids, most teachers aren’t there because they know the material better than parents. Teachers are there because they can convey the material in a manner that will stick. So, all things being equal, if a teacher of core subjects can’t “reach” a kid or otherwise convey the material, the teacher is failing to do their job. I find it interesting that people will point out how wonderful a particular teacher is at working with kids. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why those people are the teachers in our society?

    Another BIG issue I have is the overwhelming amount of time spent on non-core education. This assembly and that assembly and these and those leaflets sent home. They range from the clearly “PC/diversity” area to thinly-veiled schemes to promote extra-curricular activities with for-profit providers. The kids come home babbling as though they’d been brainwashed. It is WRONG for my elementary school kid to come home guilted into begging me to buy a box of new clothes and toys to send to some third world nation through an organization that spoke at school. And don’t get me started on the whole deal of making kids sell stuff of one kind or another every few months. That is a WHOLE ‘nother subject…

    As for retirement, I’ll make you a deal… You vote to eliminate “double dipping” and I’ll support lowering that retirement age. OK?

  37. 41

    rhp6033 spews:

    By the way, Goldie – it would be nice to have an edit function on this board, so I can correct my obvious errors. I’m definately going to have to write my posts in Word first, so I can proofread and edit before posting.

  38. 43

    ConservativeFirst spews:

    by Goldy, 01/30/2006, 11:22 PM

    “Here’s hoping we develop a thriving local industry in taking WASL tests, because that’s about the only job for which some of our kids are going to be prepared.”

    I’d say this will only get worse now that the federal government, thanks to Bush and Kennedy, are getting involved.

  39. 44

    For the Clueless spews:

    18 – We can rely on you, WrongOne, to bore people to death with the same old discredited gripes. Care to share any more chestnuts about Logan and KCREALS?

  40. 45

    rhp6033 spews:

    Sorry, Goldie, but I cannot go along with you here. Remember that the WASL is taken in the 10th grade, and only requires the student to master 8th grade level subject matter. So the student three years to prove that they can do work they should have been able to do two years before the process began.

    My kids are currently in college, where they are spending their first two years learning what I had learned prior to graduating from high school. During their careers through the Washington State public school systems, I experienced: (1) a 6th grade math teacher who didn’t see any problem with the student’s not knowing multiplcation tables before they learn long division; (2) an elementary school principal who dismissed our observations as mere “ancedotal evidence, unsupported by statistical evidence” (the same principal wrote reprimands for any teacher that reported a discipline problem in their class); (2) an 8th grade “history/english block” teacher who had the students do all their assignments in drawings, because “some students do not do well on written assignments (remember – part of her subject was ENGLISH); and a system-wide refusal to require students to submit their assignments within a given deadline (causing considerable anquish in college or “real life” when they learn that a deadline is a deadline).

    I used to think that two college-educated parents who were concerned about their children’s education and were willing devote considerable time to work with them after school would be sufficient in addition to a public-school education. Instead, I found that we spent MUCH more time after school on basic subjects than they did IN SCHOOL. For example: 6th grade math class – a total of four actual hours of class time per week, assuming no assemblies or half-days or teacher training days reduced that total. If a student didn’t get it when it was first explained, they were sent out into the hall with their book to study it more while the rest of the class went to DARE class, as the there “just wasn’t enough time to explain it again” (the teacher’s explanation).

    My argument is that the WASL doesn’t go far enough. We need standardized finals testing each year. If the WASL isn’t a good test, then use it until we can find a better one. Some students have problems taking written tests? Then use an alternative method (assuming that a disability is the reason).

    My co-workers are all from different countries (China, S. Korea, Japan), and they think our school system is a joke. My co-worker from S. Korea says our SAT’s are much easier than her high-school exams (and no, she is not from an elite school).

  41. 46

    righton spews:

    or Planned non-parenthood, La Prensa Granma (pelz), patty murray nuggets, mcdermot affadavits…

  42. 47

    For the Clueless spews:

    Let’s just teach the kids the finer points of NRO, NewsWhacks, WingNutDaily, WSJ Editorial/Propaganda page, Moonie Times and broadcast Faux News in all the classrooms. The wingnuts’ll love it and won’t care about anything beyond that.

  43. 48

    Jimmy spews:

    Dump NCLB. This bs isn’t working. Neither will the WASL in its current implementation. My kid’s teacher is literally teaching the WASL instead of giving the kids the nuts and bolts they need to put the subject matter together in context and situations outside of the classroom. Those are the skills they need in life. That is how it works. Teaching them how to do 5th grade level math (for 5th graders) just enough to get them to pass a test is madness. Not all of our kids are going to be engineers. We should be exposing them to as much as possible so they can build on their strengths and what interests them.

    And if you thing diversity is a bad thing for kids, well lets just drop it all and raise a whole new generation of bigots. Diversity won’t be needed when that has ended.

  44. 49

    righton spews:

    Its not clinton or bush’s fault….

    that our kids learn squishy subjects 5 days a week and chinese study engineering 6 or 7 days a week.

  45. 50


    As standardized tests go, the WASL is probably one of the best in the country (certainly in the top 5). It’s been carefully designed so that it can’t be gamed (as opposed to other standardized tests like the SAT).

    As a result, you can’t “Kaplan” the WASL, there’s no strategies that can be used to improve your score (other than knowing the material).

    The thing that sucks about the WASL is that it’s a high stakes standardized test, and that brings with it a huge set of other issues:
    Some really smart kids don’t do well on the WASL – the reason the WASL can’t be gamed is that you have to show all your work, which means that kids that skip steps in their heads get scored down.
    Teachers don’t have time to teach because they’re busy teaching kids how do well on the WASL (because they have to teach the kids how to show their work, etc).

    I spent four years in my kids 3/4 split classroom (2 years each), and the teacher spent weeks prepping the kids for the WASL – not teaching to the test, but teaching HOW to take the test.

    There’s no good answer here – NCLB requires a test, and if you’ve got to test, the WASL is about as good as you’re going to get.

  46. 51

    Donnageddon spews:

    WARNING: The comment “I blame Clinton” will soon be used by MTR over and over again… out of context.


    Because Mark The Redneck is a puss bag.

    And he fears vaginas.

    And he hates women.

    And someone needs to put some rat poison in MTR’s next beer.

    *just kidding*

  47. 53

    Donnageddon spews:


    I dare say 1 billion or so kids in China and India are humping and will be building the cars that your daughter drives to her low wage job

    Exactly. I blame Clinton.

    Yes Clinton.

    And Bush.

    That felt better.

  48. 54

    righton spews:

    Goldy, remember NY and its great testing….

    Wasn’t there a time, not long ago when students there busted there tails to pass/graduate?

    I dare say 1 billion or so kids in China and India are humping and will be building the cars that your daughter drives to her low wage job