WASL Fight Heats Up

This year, the Washington State Assessment of Learning (WASL) became a graduation requirement for public high school students. But forty percent of students of poverty and students of color are failing it, according to the Seattle Education Association (SEA). "This is a story of institutional racism and institutional classism," wrote SEA union leaders Wendy Kimball and Steve Pulkinnen, in a letter to Seattle senators and representatives.

What went wrong? You could certainly point to flawed test design, developmentally inappropriate questions, and inconsistent scoring. But the main problem is the inappropriate use of the WASL as a graduation requirement. It was designed to measure schools, not students. And organizations such as the Washington Education Association (WEA), the Washington State PTA, and the SEA all oppose use of the WASL for high-stakes testing.

But ordinary working people are fighting back against the WASL. Grassroots organizations such as Mothers Against the WASL are calling for WASL boycotts and opt-outs. In Seattle, teacher Carl Chew risked his job when he refused to give the WASL, and he served a two-week suspension. And students like Spokane high-schooler Adam Kuntz have boycotted the WASL until it was absolutely necessary for graduation.

But it’s important to remember that not everyone can afford to fight the WASL the same way. Schools that enter the No Child Left Behind sanction process get punished by "restructuring," which includes firing of principals and staff. And high school students who boycott the WASL can put their graduation at risk.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to resist. For example, Seattle Young People’s Project (SYPP) waged a two-year campaign against the WASL and brought public attention to its problems. Check out their WASL Haunted House video on  http://www.youtube.com -- and while you’re at it, forward it on to your friends. And students in Bellevue used Facebook to round up 200 students to picket in support of striking teachers and against standardized curriculum. And students, teachers, and parents alike are all helping out by spreading the word.

Let’s keep it up. By acting in solidarity to resist the WASL, we can win back our public education.

Find out More

Seattle Young People’s Project  http://www.sypp.org
Mothers Against WASL  http://www.mothersagainstwasl.org
Washington Education Association  http://www.washingtonea.org
Seattle Education Association  http://www.seattlewea.org
Washington State PTA  http://www.wastatepta.org

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