Planning A Trip to the Future? Get a Good Map

March 8, 2007

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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?

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The Cabinetmaker

January 24, 2007

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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.

Tips On Writing a “WASL” Letter to the Editor

January 8, 2007

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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Off-Grade Testing

November 30, 2006

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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.

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A Common Misconception?

November 25, 2006

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“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? Read the rest of this entry »

More High-Stakes Mythbusters

October 31, 2006

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THE FOLLOWING WAS PRINTED AS AN OP-ED ESSAY IN THE TRI-CITY HERALD ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2006.

MYTH 1: Since introduction of the WASL and similar high-stakes tests in other states in the mid-1990s pressure of the tests has led to significant improvement in student achievement.

What do investigators report? Read the rest of this entry »

Things That Bother Me About the WASL

October 19, 2006

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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? Read the rest of this entry »

WASL-Wikiality: Sounds Like a Job for Mythbusters

October 10, 2006

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Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia where truth is determined democratically. If enough users agree that something is true, it becomes fact. Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report has coined the term Wiki-ality to describe the reality defined by such a process. This article will attempt to show that the WASL is based on Wiki-ality and does not stand up to investigation. To do this we will rely on the methods of another cable TV show, MYTHBUSTERS, wherein hosts Jamie and Adam use actual research to show what’s real and what’s fiction.

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Thinking Skills Activity: Observing

May 23, 2006

OBSERVING FOR DETAILS
Bob Valiant, 11 March 2004
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Thinking Skill Emphasized: Observing for Detail

Suggestions are given for teaching/learning the skill of observing for detail.
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Thinking Skills Activity: Observing

May 23, 2006

Observing Sequence
Bob Valiant, 14 March 2004



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Thinking Skill Emphasized: Observing Sequence

Activities for observing sequence are provided.
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