A Common Misconception?


“The WASL concept of subject matter testing as a basis for earning a comprehensive high school diploma seems intuitively obvious.”

It may seem obvious, but the people who design such tests and the experts who interpret their results suggest that they absolutely should not be used for such purposes.

For example, the WASL Technical Report, produced by the OSPI, states that “Scores from one test given on a single occasion should never be used to make important decisions about students placement, the type of instruction they receive or retention in a given grade in school. It is important to corroborate individual scores on WASL tests with classroom-based and other local evidence of student learning.” Why does the OSPI endorse a practice its own technical manual decries?

The National Association of School Psychologists reports, “Test development experts agree that it is not appropriate to use performance on a single standardized test for making high-stakes decisions for individuals.” The NASP further states, “Although states may allow students to take these tests several times, multiple administrations of the same type of measure does not improve the reliability of the scores or reduce the general limitations of such testing.” These statements are also endorsed by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education and nearly twenty additional prominent education organizations.
What baffles me is that most school officials and university professors, who should know better, have stood by and watched while this unethical and destructive practice has gone forward.

Last Spring the Washington Legislature had a brief glimmer of enlightenment and passed SB 6475 allowing certain alternative forms of assessment after the student has failed twice. Although it is a step in the right direction, the student must first step off the cliff by failing a test with dubious validity.

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