One way to get the attention of the public regarding our concerns about the WASL is to write letters to the editors of local papers. An occasional letter doesn’t count for much, but a concentrated effort around the State will influence not just the public but the legislature as well. This technique is being widely used by large political organizations but we have adapted it for grassroots groups. What follows originally was disseminated by Moveon.org and has been rewritten specifically to address the WASL. WRITE ON!
TIPS ON WRITING A “WASL” LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Reference a Recent Article: If possible, it is best to include a reference to a recent article that appeared in the newspaper you’ve selected and then write your letter as a response, building on what was printed or pointing out how your viewpoint isn’t included. This greatly increases the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
Include Your Contact Information: Most newspapers will only print a letter to the editor after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information and will usually only print your name and city should your letter be published.
Be Clear and Concise: Keep your letters brief and to the point. Newspaper editors often edit for length, so try to keep your letter to less than 200 words. The shorter it is, the more likely it will be printed.
State Your Point Early: Be sure to state your main point in the subject line and in the first sentence of the letter.
Keep to One Topic : Keep your letters focused on one subject.
1. Please write, in your own words, why you think it’s time to get rid of the WASL. Only individually written letters will be published.
2. If you have a personal story about someone you know who has failed the WASL despite effort or has been placed in an embarrassing situation because of it, please share it.
3. This is an issue of basic fairness. Tests should measure what they purport to measure and one test should never be held up as a representative of years of learning.
4. The legislature should immediately drop the WASL as a graduation requirement and should launch a study, independent of the OSPI, to examine the standards and a more efficient and effective assessment system.
1. Error of Measurement
o All tests have an error of measurement. The WASL Standard Error of Measurement is so large that thousands of students are within the band of uncertainty near the cut point and may have been failed in error.
o A national study estimates the median cost of tests given by states to meet NCLB requirements at $15 per pupil. The WASL costs as much as $77 per pupil in direct costs. A representative of the OSPI estimated that more than $1 billion had been spent on direct costs of WASL-related school reform from its inception through 2007. This is compounded at both the state and district levels by indirect costs of administration and remediation.
3. Instructional Insensitivity
o 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.
4. Ignores Testing Standards
o The American Educational Research Association and more than 20 additional assessment organizations agree that “it is not appropriate to use performance on a single standardized test for making high-stakes decisions for individuals”.
5. Race, Culture and Disabilities
o Pass rates for limited English proficient, African American, and Hispanic students are far below those of Caucasian and Asian students indicating some degree of bias. Special Education students also experienced very low pass rates.