Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Planning A Trip to the Future? Get a Good Map

March 8, 2007


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?


The Cabinetmaker

January 24, 2007


Let’s say I am a cabinetmaker specializing in high quality, world-class furniture. I want to be sure my work stacks up against the competition so I get out my trusty hammer, which is about a foot long, to measure the dimensions of my new cabinet. I drop the hammer on the surface of my labor of love, flop it end to end a couple of times, and decide my work meets my high standard because it is over 3 flops long.

Ridiculous? Yes, but this is precisely what we are doing when we attempt to use a blunt instrument like the WASL to measure the complexity of learning in an individual human brain. Test experts have been trying to tell us this for years but we have heeded the voices of the Business Roundtable and other “Blue Ribbon” groups who, in their uninformed reaction to alleged inadequacies in our public schools, have succeeded only in dropping a “hammer” on our children. To truly improve instruction we need precise classroom-based tests that provide teachers with the information they need to fine-tune instruction, just as the cabinet maker needs precision measuring instruments to ensure the “fit” of a top-quality piece of furniture.

A Common Misconception?

November 25, 2006


“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? (more…)

Things That Bother Me About the WASL

October 19, 2006


Here are some things that bother me about the WASL and Washington Standards:

1. I have attempted without success to discover an accepted framework of learning that supports Washington’s model of curriculum and assessment. OSPI references something called the “Carkhuff Conceptual Framework,” but I have been unable to find anything about it in the educational literature. Can someone send me to a reputable source of information on this framework? Or is there one? (more…)

Where’s the Outrage Over Charter School Performance? by Gerald W. Bracey

May 28, 2005

Printed with permission of the author, Gerald W. Bracey

Near the end of the 1969 film, “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper extols all the fun and wonderful things he and biker buddy Peter Fonda have been able to accomplish with the cash from their big cocaine deal that begins the movie. Fonda looks at Hopper and says, “We blew it.”

I’ve lately been reviewing the data from charter school evaluations around the country. That scene kept coming to mind. If I could line up the zealots who’ve been touting charters for over a decade now, I’d say, “You blew it.” If charter schools had been invented by and championed by some part of the “education establishment” like the NEA, the Right would have long since proclaimed charters yet another failed fad (in fact, charters were first popularized by the AFT which later rejected them as having failed to deliver on their potential).

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Breakfast by Juanita Doyon

August 22, 2003

Submitted by Juanita Doyon

“You can test some of the children all of the time. You can test all of the children some of the time. But there just ain’t no Lake Woebegone, man!”

Things Abraham Lincoln would say if he were a teacher in the twenty-first century.

I had the privilege of attending a free breakfast and school administrator training session put on by Washington State’s Partnership for Learning—education arm of the Washington [business] Roundtable—recently. The fruit and bagel were a privilege. It was downhill from there.

A Teacher’s Manifesto by Dave Butts

June 10, 2003

I am lamenting the loss of diverse thought and the market place of free thought that once was the School District where I teach. About 15 years ago I was a 5th grade teacher. Most of us in the building belonged to one professional organization or another; PDK, ASCD etc. A common practice was for someone in the building to find a journal article espousing a particular slant on a current topic, e.g. whole language vs. phonics, and make several copies to be placed in the boxes of the other staff. It was great fun! If you disagreed you would find an equally compelling if differing article and in turn place a copy in every box. It caused one to THINK about what one held to as “educational gospel.” If nothing else it caused one to “formulate before you postulate.” Sadly, I fear that these days are gone for now. What I see now is intolerance toward teachers who might express a differing view from the administration/school board particularly with respect to standardized tests, discipline practices, pedagogy, etc. Not only is divergent thought discouraged now it is rather vilified. People have been told that if they “can’t buy in” they should “go to another building.” This seems all very remarkable to me in light of the fact that not too many years ago we believed that one of our primary tasks was to teach students to think and that in turn those thoughts and opinions had validity.

Computers in Future Classrooms by Paul Abramson

May 15, 2003

Paul writes “Today I listened to a conversation between a computer “expert” and an architect concerning the future of computer use in the classroom. Both were agreed that within five years all students would be using hand held computers in the classroom, not laptops and certainly not desk models.

They may be right about the technology, but I am concerned about children. Has anybody done any research about the effect on young children’s eyes of using smaller and smaller computer screens? Has anybody done any research on the question of dexterity and the ability of six and seven year olds to use computers that are very small. Has anybody done any thinking or research about how hand-held computers might be used by a distraught child?

All of this started when I told them about an exercise some 60 of us had been involved in. We were in teams (teachers, architects and planners) and were to design an elementary classroom to certain specifications. I pointed out that nine separate teams designed rooms and none of us included any desktop computers. We all assumed that students would use laptops and most of us provided a means for charging their batteries. Their response was what I reported above — that in five years there would be no laptops, just hand-helds. Hence my question.

Can anyone respond? I can be reached at

Federal Control

February 12, 2003

Far from “raising the bar” as advocates like to claim, the federal push for accountability through high-stakes testing is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum, lowering of student motivation, increasing dropouts, and virtually no evidence of improvement (and some evidence of decline) on such national measures as the NAEP, SAT and ACT (See the February 2003 issue of Educational Leadership). Leading education scholars continue to raise questions about the rush to control curriculum at the federal and state levels but legislators, governors, presidents and others push forward. It is time to speak out with a united voice against government control of school programs.

Join us here to discuss the issue and to develop ideas to turn this around. Please add your comments!