School officials defend WASL scoring system

"A Seattle Times article on the controversial Washington Assessment of Student Learning has raised some local and state eyebrows about how the test is scored.The story, published Aug. 27, described how the assessments were graded by temporary workers who often spent just seconds grading math questions and minutes grading essays. The company that grades the tests, National Computer Systems of Iowa, provides 16 hours of training to employees who grade tests that might effect school funding and whether or not students graduate.Central Kitsap School District Director of Research and Evaluation Linda Elman called the story muckraking.I was taken aback by it, Elman said. It was written to discredit the test.Although no test can be 100 percent accurate, Elman said she stands behind WASL. After training, Elman said the tests are easy to grade.It's OK that it doesn't take a long time to grade, Elman said. You don't have to be a teacher to read them. Elman did say the test is scrutinized because the state could change the WASL if it is forced to defend the test year after year. The state does not want to find itself in a position where it is constantly defending itself in court, Elman said. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson, who was quoted in the story supporting WASL and NCS, said the story falsely presented NCS as a slip-shod operation. At an Aug. 30 assembly at Klahowya Secondary School, Bergeson said the story was inaccurate. The story has done a lot of damage, Bergeson said. It was a bad misrepresentation.Bergeson recently met with state school superintendents from around the nation, some of whom also have grappled with assessment test issues. A lot of them (state school superintendents) have made a political decision with their assessments, Bergeson said. But we'll never force our backs against the wall.Bergeson said she plans to write a letter to the Times in response to the story.For some, the story confirmed existing reservations about the much-debated test. Carrie Riplinger, a library assistant at Seabeck Elementary, said the article expressed the apprehensions of many teachers who might be afraid to speak out about the test.I think the article is right on the money, Riplinger said. It really calls into question the credibility of the test.Since many people perceive the WASL as the all-powerful test that determines everything, Bergeson said the WASL can distract educators and parents from what is being taught in the classroom. It's part of the WASL obsession, Bergeson said. If we get too obsessed with test scores, we lose sight of the big picture. "

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