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Randy Dorn held a slim lead over incumbent Terry Bergeson in early returns Tuesday in the race to become Washington state's top schools official.
If Dorn wins, it would be a big upset for Bergeson, who has spent three terms in office, and hasn't had a tight race since she first ran for the post in 1992 and lost.
"We gave the voters of the state a choice and we think we're going to win, and it will be the best thing for kids," Dorn said. "We definitely need a new set of eyes and a new leader in education."
Bergeson said she knew the race would be close, and laid some of the blame on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to test students more than ever before.
"That's why I'm in trouble tonight," she said. "It's the weight of too much testing and too much negativity."
Win or lose, she said, she plans to find a way to work with President-elect Barack Obama's administration to make major changes in the No Child Left Behind law. Bergeson sought a fourth term to continue work she's done since the mid-1980s.
She has presided over efforts to write new learning standards for students, and to develop tests to judge whether they've reached them.
Those tests are known as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), which are given in grades 3-8 and 10, and cover reading, math and, in some grades, writing and science.
If re-elected, she said, this four-year term would be her last.
Dorn, executive director of a union that represents 26,000 teacher aides, bus drivers, janitors and other school employees, said he ran because he's become disenchanted with Bergeson's leadership.
As a state representative from 1987 to 1994, he helped write the education law that Bergeson has implemented, but he says she's taken it in directions that he and others never intended.
If elected, he pledged to work to get rid of the WASL and replace it with a shorter, less-expensive exam.
He particularly objected to the way Bergeson developed the math section of the WASL, saying it tested students' reading abilities as much as their math skills.
Dorn's union played a big financial role in the race.
The political-action committee of the SEIU's national office sunk about $400,000 into ads supporting Dorn, and others opposing Bergeson. Dorn sits on the SEIU national board.
By Linda Shaw, Seattle Times
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
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I hope Dorn takes this race; we need a change, especially in the WASL testing area. I have heard Randy Dorn speak at several PSE (union) conventions, and other venues; he listens to issues/concerns, is fair and knows "his stuff".
Oh yeah, I'm just delighted to toss out the relative achievements of the past several years and start all over again with an unknown, untested, doesn't-yet-exist assessment at which we can throw a few more million dollars. At least the WASL was meeting the requirements for No Child Left Behind - now will Washington state be at risk for losing those dollars until Randy designs his new Cadillac? This was a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Thoughtful voters?
Some of the educationally based concerns with the WASL revolve around the timeliness of the results. Potential replacement tests have proven reliability and can have the results back before the kids leave school for the summer; nobody has to reinvent the wheel.
My late brother corrected WASL-like tests after he retired. He had a co-worker who simply looked at the length of the writing to judge whether or not it passed. Routine random checking of his work by supervisors (applying the correct criteria) NEVER found fault his grading. Thoughtful grading of tests?
No Child Left Behind is a train wreck that is only now beginning to be acknowledged. States were allowed to set their own standards, so you had 50 of them. And everybody was expected to tow the line; if you didn't, you got harassed. Your new superintendent threatened you, your principal threatened you, maybe even your office manager threatened you.
Most states set small goals for the opening years of the law in hopes that the Feds would see just how unworkable this law is. But this outgoing group can never back down; they can never admit that they were wrong. As a result, this year over half of California's schools are now "failing" just because the time of the small steps to perfection are over and the big ones are in front of us. NCLB NEVER provided the money necessary to do the job. It all went somewhere else (use your imagination).
NCLB has not been the remedy it was supposed to be. All it has done is severely strain an already stressed system. Bergeson supported NCLB/WASL all the way; that is until she was faced with strong opposition. Only recently has she admitted that NCLB/WASL are flawed. And now she is fishing to go to Washington, DC to fix it!!?? Give us a break! This is the ultimate suck-up move.
Write your US Senators and Representative. We don't need someone who tried to jamb the NCLB/WASL down our throat for years (with NO EXCEPTIONS ALLOWED) to now get a cushy job trying to "fix" it.
Dorn spent $198,399.24 on his campaign; Bergeson spent $280,944.71 on her campaign. Usually the candidate who spends the most money wins, but not in this case.
When you look at this site http://www.pdc.wa.gov you'll see that Gregoire spent $12million and Rossi spent $11 million on their latest campaigns. Amazing, isn't it?
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