Return to CURE Home page.

The truth about why the WASL IS AWFUL! The truth behind the Federal Way´s misrepresentations is exposed as follows:

1. The FWPA misrepresentation: "The Legislature adopted the WASL...."

[The truth: The legislature did not adopt the WASL; it mandated an assessment be developed that did not discriminate, was valid and reliable, and that would be used by teachers to focus curriculum.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: The legislature acted "....because academics had been watered down."

[The truth: Washington students score above the national average on norm–referenced standardized achievement tests.

The FWPA misrepresentation: "The Legislature adopted academic standards and the WASL to measure achievement of the standards."

[The truth: The WASL and its flawed reform agenda evaluates the fuzzy "essential learnings," not basic knowledge and comprehension.]

2. The FWPA misrepresentation: "The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has examined the validity and reliability of the WASL and concluded that it is both valid and reliable."

[The truth: The WASL has NOT been scientifically proven valid OR reliable. While OPSI has claimed it is, independent experts dispute that, proving it to be INvalid and UNreliable. The WASL does not measure basic academic knowledge and is subjective so it can not be scored reliably].

3. The FWPA misrepresentation: "The WASL is not a timed test. The WASL gives every student enough time to do their best work. On average, it takes less than 10 hours to complete the entire test...."

[The truth: The fact that it is not a timed assessment merely verifies it is not standardized. While it may take 4th, 7th and 10th graders 10 hours to complete, in order for them to pass, teachers must adopt a historically failed reform process and teach–to–the–test. It robs students of instruction time needed to learn knowledge and comprehension of basic subjects.]

4. The FWPA misrepresentation: "The WASL costs about $29.00 per pupil to administer.... By comparison, the Scholastic Achievement Test costs about $23.00 per student for the basic test and about $50 per student for the subject matter tests, and the Advanced Placement tests cost more than $70.00 per student."

[The truth: The WASL costs $29.00 per pupil, while the ITBS and similar state–paid tests cost about $7. This comparison of the WASL to the Scholastic Achievement Test (for college entrance) or to Advanced Placement tests (for college credit) is comparing apples and oranges and is disingenuous! Additionally, the state does not pay for the expensive college tests, which were used as a comparison; students do!]

5. The FWPA misrepresentation: "You cannot get full credit for a short-answer or extended-response items unless you get the correct answer. Students can, however, receive partial credit for partially correct responses."

[The truth: Students can earn MORE credit for a wrong answer than for a right answer by explaining their thought processes. Thus, students who "just know" the right answer can get less credit than students with an incorrect answer, but explain their flawed thinking. ]

6. The FWPA misrepresentation: "Over half of the items on the WASL are multiple–choice items with only one correct answer."

[The truth: According to the OSPI WEB site, "correct" answers for even multiple–choice items are not determined until after students´ answers are read]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "For example, the math section of this year´s fourth grade test has 40 items: 24 multiple–choice, 13 short–answer, and 3 extended response items."

[Fact: This is a blatant misrepresentation. There are 40 questions, but there are more than 60 points possible. The 24 multiple–choice questions earn a maximum of 24 points, while the 16 short–answer or extended response items can earn 38 points, or more than 60% of those possible. The subjective items are heavily weighted.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "There are very specific answer keys used to score the short answer and extended response items."

[The truth: There are NO specific answer keys for these items. Instead, according to OSPI, there are "rubrics" (rules) which OSPI defines as "general guidelines." In fact, selected students´ responses are used as scoring guides, not right or wrong answers. Additionally, the questions include psychometric indicators.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "Given the specificity of the answer keys, two scorers will assign the same score to an essay answer at least 96 percent of the time."

[The truth: This arrogant misrepresentation defies explanation. OSPI´s own WEB site states the percentage of times "scorers gave the exact same score – across all questions" (1998–1999) was as little as 69% for some questions! When Dr, Haney of Boston College checked, the OSPI claimed "98%" dropped to 66%. In fact, one question´s accuracy was scored only slightly more than half (55.9%) consistently (Question #35, 7th grade math, 1998). The truth is that, according to OSPI data, on average EVERY extended response question is UNreliable for at least one child in every four. In other words, two scorers assign a DIFFERENT score to an essay answer at least 25% of the time and up to 55.9% of the time. Representing the data any other way requires gross manipulation of the data, such as averaging the scores, thus canceling lowered scores with raised scores, rather than looking at discrepancies. No wonder OSPI refuses to comply with the law and let parents and teachers see the scored tests! This fact also verifies that the WASL is not valid and reliable as claimed!]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "Copies of answer keys for sample items have been made available to school districts by OSPI on the NCS Mentor program."

[The truth: While keys for "sample items" are available, the actual assessment rubrics (rules) are not. This neither complies with the law nor furthers teacher/parent confidence.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "Research and practice demonstrate that teachers can be trained to consistently score short–answer and extended–response items with high inter–rater reliability."

[The truth: Teachers are not necessarily the ones hired to do the scoring! Scorers who do not need to hold a teaching certificate score. Even more important is that research has demonstrated just the opposite. Scorers can NOT be trained to consistently score short–answer and extended–response items with high inter–rater reliability. Equally important is that the low–paid temporary scorers are not necessarily teachers and have but a few hours of training to learn to do the scoring.]

7. The FWPA misrepresentations: "Parents do have the right to examine the WASL. In fact, the state has made available Example Tests that include the same format and number of items as an operational test."

[The truth: Example tests do not necessarily REFLECT the actual assessment, since most items on each WASL are changed every year.

The FWPA misrepresentation: "[P]arents can examine an actual test during the time those tests are available in the district during the testing window. In this case, parents need to contact their child´s school principal."

[The truth: While parents can read the WASL at this time, neutral experts, taxpayers or even teachers have not been allowed to evaluate the psychometric data collected on the children to determine just what the WASL assesses nor to see how their students´ responses were scored!]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "The purpose of viewing an operational test in advance is to allow parents who may object to the test to opt–out."

[The truth:To opt–out a child, parents are extorted into signing that: "As parent/guardian, I have made this decision and understand that doing so can greatly affect educational opportunities for my child." This opt–out feature circumvents a lawsuit, since courts have determined it is part of the curriculum and subject to disclosure. Furthermore, those who opt–out are reported as "not meeting the standard." Finally, "alternate activities" are to be offered to children who opt–out but attend school on those days. They appear to include invasive questionnaires similar to the WASL.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "It is true that we do not get to view the tests after they´ve been scored. However, this is the case with the ITBS/ITED, SAT´s, AP tests, GRE´s, LSAT´s."

[The truth: While the standardized tests are not returned after they have been scored, those tests do not experiment on our children. Furthermore, each question has "right" and "wrong" answers and is scored objectively, not subjectively depending on the scorer. The standardized tests are not "pilot" or experimental instruments with a clear political agenda, which is altering education, as we know it. Furthermore, with standardized tests, an in–depth evaluation of the results is returned to the student. Finally, unlike the WASL, "old" tests are available after they are no longer used.]

The FWPA misrepresentation: "OSPI is pursuing the possibility of making arrangements for returning at least the writing section of the test."

[The truth: Public outcry instituted legislation for OSPI to comply with the law and return the assessments so they could be used to guide curriculum and be open to parental inspection. OSPI sabatoged the effort by testifying that it could only return the writing section and could not include any scoring.]

8. The FWPA misrepresentation: "Teachers are teaching the skills necessary to meet the standards."

[The truth: The teachers are being forced to waste time teaching to the WASL´s new–fad education, taking time from teaching basic academics.]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "The standards are Washington´s Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALR´s) that were adopted by the Legislature and the State Board of Education."

[The truth: The myriad of "standards" (called "essential learnings" or "EALRs") redefined basic education from academics to this reformed educational fad. They are spread thinly and must ALL be EQUALLY assessed by the WASL. To do so, only a couple of questions can evaluate each item. Thus, the math sectionhas only a couple of questions to evaluate the student's ability to compute math, which is only one of the EALR´s. Furthermore, many of the questions ARE set at such impossibly high standards that even experts cannot discern a correct answer. Conversely, other parts of the WASL are set at ridiculously low standards. Overall, experts agree that the WASL better measures economic status and IQ than academic knowledge and comprehension.]

9. The FWPA misrepresentations: "The skills assessed by the WASL are similar to those advocated by professional groups such as the International Reading Association, the national Council of Teachers of English, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics."

[The truth: No source was cited and this statement appears to have been used out of context. These same organizations have taken stands against high–stakes testing. The state "skills" do not focus on academics, but are process–oriented, similar to the national history standards which congress rejected several years ago.]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "These same skills have been determined to be necessary by 38 other states that have adopted standards."

[The truth: This verifies that the driver to reform of education, curriculum and teaching is federally driven, not local. Public and teacher backlash against "these same skills" has prompted boycotts, lawsuits and teacher union revolts in many of these states]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "Increasing numbers of students are meeting or exceeding the standard on the listening, reading, writing, and mathematics sections of the WASL."

[The truth: That statement is simply invalid. The WASL cannot be compared from year–to–year because it changes; it is not normed for age appropriateness; different students are given different amounts of help and different amounts of time to take it; each year the scoring "rubrics" (rules) are redefined; and different "groups" of students are included and/or excluded from score totals, making any comparison invalid.]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "This (score increase) is true for both the general population as well as for students with disabilities who have individualized education plans (IEPs)."

[The truth: The reported scores for minority and disabled students are increasing at a slower rate than for others, so the disparity increases each year.]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "For example, the percentages of fourth grade students meeting the reading standard since (????) were (????) as for students with disabilities who have individualized education plans (IEPs). For example, the percentages of fourth grade students meeting the reading standard (????) [???? Indicates missing verbiage in FWPA statement.]

[The truth: Students with IEPs are being "waived" (exempted) from selected testing totals, but not others. This is another reason cumulative scores appear to increase. FWPA neglected to mention the increasing disparity of WASL scores for minorities.]

The FWPA misrepresentations: "As we increase teacher skill through professional development, increasing numbers of students are achieving the higher standards."

[The truth: This appears to mean that with time, teachers will be trained to teach–to–the–test and the "explain–your–thinking process" rather than knowledge and comprehension]

10. The FWPA misrepresentations: "The administration of the WASL appears to violate the civil rights of disabled children. Keeping the results secret from their parents is a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students with disabilities are provided with appropriate accommodations as required by federal and state law. The results are reported to parents so there is no "secret" about how students performed."

[The truth: The WASL clearly violates the civil rights of disabled and minority children. While the students´ raw WASL scores are not "secret," knowledge of what is being assessed, what it means to the student, how it may limit his/her potential educational choices, and future potential economic impacts are not explained. Even these parents are not allowed to see exactly how their students performed. Parents of these students have considered instituting a lawsuit.]

11. The FWPA misrepresentation: "Boycotting the test denies the student the opportunity to access a measurement of his or her academic growth."

[The truth: Boycotting the test denies the state the opportunity to access a measurement and labeling of the students' IQ, economic status, thought processes, and other psychometric predispositions]

12. The FWPA misrepresentations IGNORED the following truths found in the pamphlet:

(A) Low–paid temporary workers, NOT teachers, score the WASL.

(B) Nuremberg–inspired laws make psychological testing and experimental questioning of children illegal without WRITTEN parental permission AND full disclosure of potential uses, access, and consequences of responses.

(C) Scanning the WASL into computers results in psychometric data being gathered without parental knowledge or consent, violating privacy rights.

(D) The state constitution prohibits the state from passing any law regarding the management of public schools. At OSPI´s urging, both legislative houses passed OSPI's recommendation to giving an unelected A+ Commission authority to evaluate schools based on their students' WASLs. It allows the state to manage public schools and removes local control, including elected school boards, a clear violation of law.

(E) Both state and federal statutes and judicial conclusions require open disclosure, yet the WASL remains shrouded in mystery for teachers and neutral researchers.

(F) The WASL violates civil rights. Increasingly disparate scores discriminate against specific minority groups (Blacks, Hispanics and American Indian) and under–privileged youth.
(G) The WASL needs to be returned as a check on this unreliable test. The WASL´s INvalidity and UNreliability has been verified multiple times:

    1. OSPI had to return all of them to be rescored because results were "too high,"
    2. Incorrect scores have been sent to schools,
    3. Children who did not take the assessment have received scores,
    4. Six students in Federal Way had scores belonging to other children.
(H) This scientifically UNreliable and INvalid assessment is to be "high stakes," required for high school graduation soon.

(I) The OSPI´s Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), instead of being an improvement on academics, is a lengthy list of what Johnny should be able to do. It is not knowledge based learning. Under the EARL´s, learning to "understand that measurement is approximate" is given equal weight and credit with learning all basic number operations: "add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers."

While OSPI condones a dismal reliability with the WASL, they demand students and teachers accomplish a higher standard. The OSPI had a 100% incorrect scoring errors for writing, but still finds the WASL acceptable. Scorers score with as little as 55.9% accuracy, while students must pass all sections with a 400 which only one in five children can do, considering the WASL´s subjectivity. No wonder students are boycotting and teachers are objecting to it.

Thank you!

Shirley Basarab, Researcher and Author of: "Why the WASL is so AWFUL!"

This paper is in answer to "Misconceptions" by Cathy Parisi, Office Manager Federal Way Public Academy
(253) 945-4681 FAX (253) 945-4686 web