February 12, 2002
I-780 — CANDIDATES FOR PUBLIC
OFFICE TAKE THE WASL
(Washington Assessment of
A group of Washington State educators has filed an initiative, I-780, that
requires any candidate running for any local or statewide office in Washington to take the same high stakes test required of all tenth grade students, and to post
their scores in the Voter's Pamphlet and on the Secretary of State's web
site.The details of the I-780 (full text of I-780 at: www.democracy.org)
Anyone running for any local or state-wide office in the state will take all sections of the tenth grade WASL, (the Washington Assessment of Student Learning) at their own expense.The tests will be offered in proctored sites around the
state and will be scored by the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Scores will be posted in Voter's Pamphlet provided before elections and
on the Secretary of State's web site.
There are no requirements that candidates must pass all or any sections of the
test, but they must complete the WASL and post their scores.
The educators filing the initiative—Bob Howard, David Marshak, and Doug
Selwyn—are taking this step for several reasons:
(1) The legislature has defined the WASL as basic education.Passing the WASL is what it means to be well educated and ready to move into the adult
world, and it is the only measure of that status.This is true for all
students, no matter what their backgrounds, interests, skills, language
bases, or any other factors are.
We are asking anyone running for office to be measured alongside
the yardstick defined by our state legislature, to see how they measure up
against those standards set for basic education, for high school students, for 10th graders, for 16 year olds. If the WASL has validity for the students, it should certainly have validity for the candidates and voters. If the 10th grade WASL is a measure of what adults need to know and be able to do to be successful in our world, then would this not be the case for elected officials, too?
(2) A single test cannot be an accurate, defining measurement of any student’s knowledge and skills.There is no single test that can accurately and fairly measure what someone knows and can do.All it can reflect is what the student knew on a particular day, through the limited and inevitably biased medium of a particular test.
We agree that students should have some common knowledge base and some common skills to graduate from high school. However, we believe that given the diverse nature of human beings and the diverse resources that students gain from their families and communities, we need to provide students with a variety of ways through which they can demonstrate that knowledge and these skills.
(3) We know that there are many people in our society who are bright,
capable, and gifted people who do not perform well on standardized, paper and pencil tests. We know that there are people with gifts who do not perform well under the kind of pressure created by high stakes tests.
The WASL privileges people who are good test takers and harms those who are not good test takers. But the activity of taking tests has very little value in and of itself in our society. Who makes a living or contributes to society or helps other people simply by being good at taking tests?
What remedy do we propose? No single high stakes test. No one measure should determine a person's future opportunities.
An array of assessments that really communicates who a student is and what he or she knows and can do. The assessments should help students, teachers, and parents to know what the student's strengths and weaknesses are, and theyshould lead to more effective teaching and learning.
Adequate resources and support to meet the needs of each student.
Putting educational dollars into the pockets of test makers does not serve the
best interests of the students or society.More than a hundred million dollars has gone into the development and implementation of the WASL; this is money that could have been used to better educate our students. Now even more money will be spent on the WASL if we have to give it every year from grades 3-8, as required by new federal legislation just passed by Congress and signed by the President.
The proponents of this initiative are committed to gathering the required
200,000 signatures to put the measure before the voters in November.This
is an entirely volunteer effort; volunteers can download petitions for I-780 at
www.democracy.org and they can also contact the initiative authors at that site.
The initiative’s authors may be contacted by the press at the following telephone numbers: David Marshak (206 329-1282); Bob Howard (206 374-2414); Doug Selwyn (206 268-4616).
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