Planning A Trip to the Future? Get a Good Map


Suppose you are in St. Louis, Missouri and you are planning a trip to Vancouver, Washington. Only two maps are available, the one given Lewis and Clark at the start of their journey, or a U.S. highway map from Walmart. Which map would you choose?

Lewis and Clark map

The first map was all that was available to Lewis and Clark, but would not be of much use for planning a 21st Century car trip. A current map is an essential tool for planning any trip, including a trip to the future.

In Washington State we are attempting to use a 20th Century map, the WASL, to plan a 21st Century journey. The Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) purport to tell us our destination while the WASL is supposed to provide the information to chart our path. Unfortunately, the WASL is much like the Lewis and Clark map above. Besides being out of date before you get it, it provides only vague directions to correct your course if you go off track. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), the research arm for state government, has reported that the strand scores on the math assessment are unreliable which renders them useless as a diagnostic tool. The error of measurement is so high for the 10th grade math test that as many as 17,000 class- of-2008 students may have been either passed or failed in error. Similar but less severe problems exist with all levels and all subjects of the WASL.

Fortunately, tests exist which can help us chart our way to the future. While significantly less costly, these assessment systems provide quick, accurate results within hours or days compared to the months required for data from the WASL. These assessments are targeted to specific skills and knowledge compared to the scatter-gun approach of the WASL allowing teachers to immediately plan interventions to get the student back on track.

If we want our children to arrive in the future prepared to face the world of the 21st Century, we need to provide them with a good map.

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