Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't take a ride from a blind cabbie.

For over 12 years WASL has been pushed as a "tool" to measure student learning in its own title: Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Often the word "accountability" is thrown around connected to WASL for students, parents, teachers and school districts. Where is the accountability for our state superintendent's office? In recent months, State Auditor Brian Sonntag has conducted audits on many of our school districts. Our governor is repeating the line "fully fund education according to our state Constitution" as part of her campaign. Everyone knows the WASL comes with an extremely high cost, but do we really know how much the taxpayers are paying for this flawed test?

The Pearson Educational Measurement contract is to be signed again in August. Shouldn't people know where we stand fiscally with our education dollar before the contract is a thing of the past? Isn't it time to focus an audit on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction so we know where our money is being spent? How are we to make an educated vote without this important information?

Not only is the WASL contract coming up, but the State Superintendent's race is hotly contested, with a field of six running in the primary, one being the current superintendent. It sure would be nice to know if the self-proclaimed "Queen of the WASL," Terry Bergeson, is running the kind of tight ship the taxpayers of Washington expect. Shouldn't there be accountability for the office responsible for implementing our expensive "tool"? Do we really know if the taxpayers are fully funding education without being assured where and how our money is being spent? Forty-eight percent of the state budget is a big hunk of change. Mr. Sonntag needs to let us know if OSPI is a sinking ship. We already know the WASL is.

Rachel DeBellis

Read this Letter to the Editor and many more great articles from the Herald by clicking here.


I wouldn't hold your breath for Brian Sonntag to audit OSPI. For the last 16 years, the Auditor has had little to no effect at tracking or preventing theft of public funds or holding public agencies accountable. Anything he happens to stumble upon is purely coincidental.

The blog at has a long list of examples where our staff have pointed out problems and his staff have offered overly simplified dismissals for misconduct. He doesn't understand the mind of criminals or the societal impact of prolonged corruption.

Like many voters, I have no faith in Brian Sonntag and have little regard for the conclusions he draws that merely perpetuate the problems and guarantee continued work for his staff of simpletons. When public officials are not held accountable for their conduct, we all suffer.

Please take a few minutes and read the recent conclusions out of the Auditor's office regarding the Edmonds School District's Piano Scheme and immoral property transactions. Sonntag's priority is apparently to protect public administrators not public resources and his protection of OSPI will not be any different.

Mark Zandberg

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know someone who corrects the writing portion of state "high stakes" tests for Pearson. He operates under a confidentiality agreement so he can't reveal which state's tests he corrects (but he laughs when I mention that Pearson corrects the WASL). Training was minimal, in his opinion (he was a retired community college instructor), and feedback on how well or badly he was doing his job was non-existent until after the tests were corrected. He found it very difficult to perform the task without that feedback. He became fearful that he was doing it wrong and felt that his scoring was inconsistent.

The second season he worked there (it is seasonal work), he was made a supervisor. In that capacity, he witnessed a heated discussion between Pearson management and the representative of one of the states that they were working for. The subject of the discussion was to what standard the tests would be corrected (to simplify for you: grade easy, medium, or hard). Eventually he was called upon to give his version of what he witnessed (which didn't come out well for the state rep who was pompous and overbearing, in my friend's opinion).

Correcting a test like the WASL is not totally objective no matter how much OSPI tells you that it is. While there can be some agreement as to what is desired at various levels, the test is being "graded" by a human who may apply "rules" unevenly even as the process tries to minimize the variation. One "strickly enforced" rule is that if the prompt asks for a letter and the student writes a poem (even an excellent poem), s/he gets a "0" because s/he didn't follow the rules.

How many great writers or inventors or politicians succeeded by not following the rules? Oops, sorry Einstein, you get a "0" because you didn't follow the rules. You, too, Galileo. Go to the back of the class. We only want people who will do what they are told.

Creativity? Naw, that's for art and music; we're cutting class time for those subjects so we can concentrate on English, reading and math. (Sarcasm follows) Besides how many musicians does the world need anyway?