Mar 5, 2007

Terry Bergeson defends the WASL

Thoughtful critics of the WASL would do well to examine Bergeson's apologia in yesterday's P-I.
The notion of completely abandoning the WASL graduation requirement for math -- let alone reading and writing and eventually science -- is unconscionable. It would dishonor the hard work and trust that students, teachers, administrators and parents have put into meeting our education standards. Worse, it would put Washington children at an enormous educational and economic disadvantage....

We have made progress.

Washington fourth-graders' math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress have climbed from 17th in the nation in 1996 to ninth in the nation in 2005. At the same time, fourth-grade African American students have improved from 13th to first in the nation in their NAEP scores.

Eighth-graders have boosted their NAEP math scores ranking from 14th in the nation to seventh, while African American eighth-graders have gone from 19th place to second.

These improvements reflect the progress on WASL-measured math knowledge. The percentage of students meeting the fourth-grade math standard has almost tripled since 1997.

Despite this progress, we've not gone far enough fast enough. And it's not the kids' fault. We realize many students haven't had the opportunity to learn what they need in order to meet the math standards.

There are several reasons. There is a nationwide shortage of highly qualified math teachers. Teachers are offered inadequate preparation and professional development. Too many schools are still using math curriculum that isn't aligned with our standards and our test. Many students -- often the students most in need of intensive instruction to accelerate their learning -- are instead tracked into remedial, dead-end courses. And we simply lack the funding to provide the teacher training, smaller class sizes and individual help that students need....
As they say, read the whole thing.

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