Off-Grade Testing

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The use of the WASL at grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 is completely inappropriate. The test is instructionally insensitive with only a few items sampling a broad range of EALRS. Because there are so many extended answer items, the total number of questions on any given topic does not provide sufficient coverage to fully define areas of weakness and/or strength. Turn-around time for scoring precludes any useful response to individual students and in any event the method of reporting student scores as a 1, 2, 3, or 4 does not provide the kind of data a teacher needs to plan appropriate remediation.

The math WASL in particular is unsuitable for off-grade testing. It has become apparent that the math test does not measure singular concepts. In plain English, it correlates more highly with reading tests than it does with other math tests due to its over use of long word problems. The use of outside readers with questionable training further introduces uncontrollable scoring error into the process.

The cost of the WASL is beyond reason for the value that is obtained. A $3 ITED is of as much instructional value as a $73 WASL, does not diminish classroom instructional time to the degree of the WASL, and has proven validity and reliability. Many other alternatives to the WASL exist, of course. Some, including the MAP and Compass tests, are instructionally sensitive and are much less costly than the WASL. It is imperative that this type of test be tried in controlled studies.

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