Test isn’t fair, it punishes students

As a teacher at Marysville Junior High School, I have an advisory class (homeroom) made up of 24 randomly assigned ninth-graders. In my class, 71 percent of these students failed to pass at least one section of the seventh grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning and eighth grade WASL science test; 54 percent failed two sections, and 43 percent failed at least three sections. Unless these students dramatically improve their scores on next year’s 10th grade WASL, a large majority of them will be ineligible to receive their high school diploma in 2008.

If these poor scores reflect ineffective or inadequate schooling (an assumption that is up for debate), then why are we punishing individual students for our failure? In this situation, blaming the victim is not only unfair, but will also have the real-life consequences of denying these students what has become our society’s ticket to economic opportunity.

Let’s use the WASL to gather vital information for strengthening our schools and academic programs, not to deny students their hard-earned diplomas. Of course we need to improve public education, but can’t we get more creative, just and appropriate than this? Using the WASL as a high-stakes graduation requirement is a lose-lose scenario.

Jim Strickland


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