Monday, January 16, 2006

No WASL Left Behind?

Washington State senator Craig Pridemore wants to repeal the soon-to-be implemented requirement that students pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning before they collect their high school diplomas:
The Vancouver Democrat, who sits on the Senate Early Learning, K-12 and Higher Education Committee, said it's time to bring the debate over using the WASL as a graduation requirement into the open.

"This is a debate that has gone on for years, but it has gone on mainly behind closed doors," he said. "There has been reluctance to acknowledge that this test has a negative impact on our educational system."

Gov. Christine Gregoire and legislative leaders from both parties have vowed not to back off from requirements that graduating seniors pass the WASL starting in 2008.

The WASL graduation requirement has been endorsed by the Washington Business Roundtable, one of the state's leading business groups, as well as statewide associations of school boards and school principals.

The requirement has drawn opposition from educators and some school board members in districts with large numbers of minority students. The Washington Education Association, a teachers' union, wants the state to drop the WASL graduation requirement. So does former Gov. Booth Gardner, regarded by some as the father of school reform in Washington.

Some educators and political leaders say they worry that thousands of students won't graduate because they can't pass the tests in reading, writing and mathematics. Last year, 42.3 percent of Washington 10th graders passed the portions of the WASL that will be required for graduation.

But Pridemore said he is convinced that requiring the WASL actually lowers the bar for the highest-achieving students.

"It's basically a C-level test," he said Friday. "For those students, it's telling them, 'This is all we expect of you.' And because the stakes are so high, it is pulling resources away from higher-achieving students as well as those who have more challenges."
All rhetoric aside, how does one go about informing tens of thousands of parents that their child can't matriculate to the college of their choice because they couldn't pass a "C-level" high school exit examination?

With this many potentially very angry parents voters, there could be some very serious consequences at the ballot box for Washington State's elected officials if this "must pass" requirement is implemented as scheduled.

Our prediction: The "must pass" provision of the WASL will not be repealed but will likely be delayed or watered-down so that more students can pass, thus satisfying the parents voters and extending several politicians' tenure in office.

The politicians aren't "looking out for kids," usually; they're looking to preserve their political hides.
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