NEW SECTION…… "FORUM FOR ISSUES THAT AFFECT OUR KIDS",
opposing opinions invited. Sent from Jim Deatherage to the three legislators from our district regarding WASL and the upcoming bills introduced to stop the excessive testing in our district. January 11, 2006
As a teacher of secondary English for 37 years, and a teacher at Richland High School for 31 of those years, I feel I have a good sense of the kind of education that has helped our students succeed in their lives after high school. Most of my students, their parents, and my peers would tell you I have high standards for myself and for my students. Most would agree that these students have been successful later, in part, because of the education they received in my classroom. Therefore, I trust my comments on the WASL will not be taken as presumptuous or deemed as excuse making to avoid accountability for myself and other teachers.
I have opposed the WASL from the very beginning, in part because I am not fond of others miles away dictating what my school district must teach, and because I did not become a teacher or stay in the profession this long to "produce worker bees." As a result of the excessive testing involved, and the pressure to have all students pass the exam, curriculum has been dangerously narrowed. Early on, I talked with elementary teachers who lamented that they were forfeiting time-honored projects, special programs, even recess, under the pressure to devote more time to WASL lessons. I heard from teachers that "extraneous" programs like art, music, P.E. were being reduced and/or eliminated to spend more time helping students "meet standards." I feared this pattern of abuse would continue up through the tenth grade exam, changing curriculum and programs. I was told again and again it would never happen--never was the intention. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened. Former Governor Booth Gardner has spoken and written eloquently on how the initial vision of the exams was changed into a program he no longer wishes to be a part of his legacy.
We now have WASL math classes, WASL science classes, WASL writing classes, all designed to help those students who failed the WASL a worthy concept on the surface. However, many of these students will never pass the WASL. Good people, they will have jobs that don't require a college degree, and be productive members of society, contributing to our common good. What would ever possess us to implement a program, however well intended, that labels children early and often as "losers," perhaps contributing to their eventual dropping out of school?
How much attention can we afford to give to those who fail the exam without negatively impacting the majority of the students, including the gifted? There is only so much money to go around. Last year, Garfield High School dropped several classes and planned to drop A.P. Physics so they could use those teachers to teach remedial WASL courses, thereby satisfying the legislature's incessant demand that a certain percentage of students pass the exam, year after year. Many such program changes across the state, school after school, abandon far too many capable and deserving students.
The money already wasted on the WASL and the continuing expense for further testing are mind-boggling $42 million alone for summer school? Could not these funds be better allocated and utilized to help all students succeed? Worse yet, anyone involved with administering these exams
can testify to the resulting loss of instructional time. The impact of this loss of time on courses preparing students to take the Advanced Placement exams or to succeed in college preparatory classes is criminal. We are already inundated with mandatory AIDS assemblies, culminating project portfolios, senior projects, early releases, etc. Few people outside education realize the amount of time lost for students including those not taking the exams. At Richland High School, during WASL testing (eight days), juniors and seniors came to school at 10:00, and class time was so reduced that there was hardly time to take roll and give assignments, let alone teach or help students. Last year, because of Spring Break, WASL, and the above, we had only seven normal schedule days in April. What happened to education? Juxtapose our circumstance with what other countries are doing to prepare their students for global competition, and the future is bleak.
I'm appalled that some colleges even entertained the notion of using WASL scores to determine admission. This is nothing less than "blackmail," another desperate attempt to lend validity to this misguided exam. Frankly, I have known a number of students who "wallowed" around in high school, only to take the GED, enter the military, or enter college in their twenties, who are now very successful. Currently, however, if a student fails the WASL, he risks being cut off from further education. Anyone even vaguely familiar with education knows the danger of judging a student by an isolated test score. There are so many reasons not to use this or any other single test that I'm embarrassed more educators haven't spoken out.
Please do not pay heed to the pro-WASL propaganda currently on the radio and the erroneous accusation that teachers who don't support the WASL don't want to be held accountable. A majority of the teachers I have known and worked with are hard workers. Sure, like any other profession, there are some who are lazy or indifferent, but, overall, these educators work hard in an arena that few understand except other teachers. They want their students to succeed. However, this penchant for excessive testing is no help, but a hindrance to teaching. "You can't make a pig fatter by weighing him all the time." A narrow focus in curriculum at this age is crippling, and if you ask teachers K-12, they'll overwhelmingly state they feel "handcuffed" by the testing demands, and their students are suffering because of such excessive emphasis on the exam.
I strongly urge you to support the two bills being introduced this session that would allow individual districts to do what is best for students and teachers. As you well know, Richland has supported education in a manner that is exemplary, and I'm proud of the citizens who have done so over the years. We are fortunate that our superintendent, Dr. Richard Semler, has taken a bold move to change this flawed and detrimental system. Thank you for your time and interest in this issue, one that will reverberate in Washington State for decades to come.
Richland High School 930 Long Avenue Richland, WA 99352 (509) 942-2500
"SENIOR MOMENTS"…. To all Seniors…….
The graduation ceremony has been set for 7:30 p.m. on June 2 at the coliseum.
The June 2 practice will be held at the coliseum at 9:30 a.m.
Students are busy planning Baccalaureate for Tuesday, May 30 at Cathedral of Joy Church.
Senior Party volunteers have stepped up but more parents are still needed. Contact Sue Pinard [firstname.lastname@example.org PH 628-3401] and Janice Higgs [email@example.com PH 628- 3458].
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE, …GONE!
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet and mingle with other senior parents at the annual Senior Party Fundraising Auction while supporting the graduating class of 2006. Come join us for an evening filled with friends, fun, and fabulous finds as we auction some fantastic gift items from local wineries, restaurants and merchants – you never know what you may find! Complimentary beverages and appetizers provided.
Saturday, March 11th from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Hampton Inn in Richland.
Live auction begins at 8:00 p.m. Ticket price is $25/person. All proceeds generated will be used to fund the 2006 Senior Party, a drug and alcohol free celebration held for all graduating Richland High School seniors. So, tell your friends and neighbors and mark your calendars as this is one event you don’t want to take a pass on. This is a very popular event and space is limited, so make your reservations early by contacting Sharon Bixler (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 627-6357 or Carol Sanford (email@example.com) at 627-5916.
The Afro-Americans for an Academic Society and the Hispanic Academic Achievement Program
This year's AAAS and HAAP recognition banquets are fast approaching. The Afro-Americans for an Academic Society and the Hispanic Academic Achievement Program are community based organizations that encourage and support students who strive to excel in the classroom. The academic criteria are to be working above average at grade level for elementary students and at or above a 3.0 GPA for secondary students. If you have not been contacted for this recognition and would like to be considered, please contact your counselor.
Check the Senior Calendar on the RHS Online Calendar
for updates to dates and times.
Go to www.richlandbombers.org and click on Calendar of Events.
Login and click on Cascading Calendars and then click on the Senior Calendar.