SeaTimes Don't blame wasl for failure
- To: "Wa-Ed" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Arn-L" <email@example.com>
- Subject: SeaTimes Don't blame wasl for failure
- From: "Arthur Hu(comcast)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 10:15:00 -0800
- Importance: Normal
re: Don't Blame WASL.
We certainly CAN blame the WASL for subjecting below average
kids to standards that 25% of Running Start (high school
students who take college courses) can't even pass. WASL is a ridiculous
criteria for high school graduation. Flunking kids if they don't meet 4 year
entry standards is just plain stupid. when you can't even
get the weakest students past solid 8th grade basics.
No amount of funding is
going to make all kids ready for U Wash, but people keep insist
on pouring money into unrealistic an unattainable goals at the
cost of ruining opportunities for the least fortunate who
won't be able to even get a high school diploma for 12 years
of honest effort. All we need are more officials who act like Asian parents
who believe their kids are failure if
they can' get into Harvard.
Arthur Hu Kirkland WA.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Susan Byrnes / Times editorial columnist
Don't blame the WASL for state's education woes
You might not know it walking down the worn hallways at Rainier Beach
High School in Seattle's South end, but we're steaming toward a train
Starting with next year's freshman class, Washington high-school
students will be required to meet state standards on all portions of
the 10th-grade student assessment test to graduate. Last year, only
about one-third of the state's 10th-graders did. At Rainier Beach,
just 6 percent of sophomores passed the math portion.
High-school graduation is already only a 50-50 proposition for
African-American, Hispanic and Native-American students nationwide.
Are we just going to stand by as their prospects for a diploma get
even worse than that?
This session, state legislators clarified high-school graduation
requirements, giving high-school students four chances to pass all
portions of Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The
legislation also mandates creation of an alternative assessment. That
will boost passing rates. But it's not enough.
Tough, clear standards are a key component of education reform. But
testing is only the start. It's not a solution. Testing gauges student
achievement; it doesn't boost it. To raise graduation requirements
without drastically improving schools is unfair and unwise. Allowing
thousands more teenagers to drop out every year will have disastrous
social and economic effects on our state.
The WASL is not a perfect test; there is no such thing. But it's time
to stop blaming it for education's ills. The WASL is not the problem.
It is merely the messenger. And the message is undeniably grim.
At Forks High School, just 14 percent of Native Americans passed the
math portion of the WASL last year. At Lincoln High School in Tacoma,
only about 8 percent of African Americans passed the math portion and
one-quarter passed reading. And at Davis High School in Yakima, where
Hispanics make up about half the student body, about 9 percent of them
passed the math test while one in four passed the reading test.
Obviously, we were failing kids before the WASL and before the passage
of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. The laws have helped
reveal the truth: Too many students ? of all income levels and
ethnicities ? aren't learning the skills they need to succeed.
In our economy, education equals higher pay and better opportunity.
High-school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, in jail or on
public assistance than high-school graduates.
Federal and state lawmakers have established a worthy goal of
educating all kids to high standards. But they've failed to
acknowledge the serious investment it will take to get there.
Struggling students need consistent help to meet the standards. A
hollow promise is worse than no promise at all.
In November, Washington voters will be asked to step in. A proposal to
create an Education Trust Fund would raise sales taxes by a penny to
fund about $1 billion a year in programs from pre-K through college.
The initiative won't solve the problem, but it's at least a start.
Public education is a messy, complicated and change-resistant system.
Still, schools in this state, such as Bemiss Elementary in Spokane and
Bridgeport Elementary in Douglas County, have boosted WASL scores
among severely disadvantaged populations, using federal funds and
grants to improve instruction and focus on reading. It's hard work and
it costs money.
High-quality preschools, full-day kindergarten, intensive reading
programs, smaller class sizes and after-school tutoring have all
demonstrated positive effects on student learning. Top-notch teachers
improve achievement. Schools need strong leaders, engaged parents and
a buildingwide belief that every student can succeed.
In an upstairs classroom at Rainier Beach, math teacher James Vogler
swims frantically upstream, shouting encouragement to his class as he
scribbles equations on a hazy chalkboard.
"You guys know this," the former Marine booms with the volume of a
drill sergeant, his dark pants and shirt smeared with white chalk.
"You know this stuff."
His students are as engaged as he is dynamic. He believes in them, and
they know it. Several know the material well. But others look lost.
Some of his students can't do algebra or trigonometry because they
never learned basic computation skills. Fractions. Division.
Aurora Escame, Rainier Beach's only full-time counselor, recently sent
letters to nearly half the senior class to inform students they were
in danger of not graduating. Many are so far behind, there's little
hope of catching up before graduation day. Some sign up for
alternative programs. Others just stop showing up.
There are no sirens going off at Rainier Beach signaling emergency,
only bells marking a class change as students move into the halls.
Their opportunity slips away without a sound.
Susan Byrnes' column appears regularly on editorial pages of The
Times. Her e-mail address is email@example.com
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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