Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Here We Go A-WASL-ing

$%#^%$ the WASL. That's all I can say.

Okay, maybe I can say a little more. Because my 12 year old is in a virtual school, he has to take the WASL, which is Washington State's big, bad standardized test. This was news to me. This test, from what I'm told, tests for such a huge amount of unrelated information that teachers here teach only to the test. My kids are getting a thorough, well-rounded education and Tyler scored in the college freshman range on last year's Woodcock-Johnson (another test), so I wasn't too concerned. But just to be on the safe side I bought one of the Grade 7 books from the giganto WASL prep section at Borders.

Here's a sample math question:

Explain in short answer form why the area of a triangle is calculated differently from the area of a polygon.

My kid is doing Algebra and he was baffled. I earned an A in college trigonometry and I can see why they are calculated differently, but I don't think I could explain it coherently. Certainly not in the two-minutes-or-less that the book says should be given to this type of questions. This was not one hard question, but rather a good representative of the questions on the sample test.

I won't even get into the reading portion. I'll just say that a twelve year old can be well-educated and well-rounded without knowing what a précis is or how an author's schema (yeah, they used that exact word) affects his style of writing.

We've been too busy learning real math--you know, the kind with numbers and formulas?--and writing commentaries on some of the world's greatest literature to address these points. I'm glad we bought the book, so we at least know what kind of foolishness we are in for. We will spend the next two weeks memorizing what every other kid in the state has been drilling all year, and I'm sure he will do fine on the bugger because he's a smart kid.

But I'm a little concerned for an educational system with such an interesting set of learning priorities.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. My brother and his family live in WA, so I forwarded this to them. Their oldest is only in kindergarten, but they'll have to deal with this all too soon.

I think a lot of states are now doing these sorts of tests. I know they were originally designed to help assess kids' academic needs, but like a lot of good ideas, I think these tests have back fired on the school systems. It's really sort of sad.

~ Amy @ Memoirs of a Mommy

kh said...

A triangle is a polygon.


Lisa Russell said...

We enrolled at 99% because the WASL was so stupid last year (driving 2/5 of my kids to 2 different schools on different sides of town to take the WASL at like 8a.m. and then picking them up again 2 hours later each day) AND- when the results came they weren't even in any kind of form that would help us in our lesson planning (like the Woodcock Johnson was) So this year we did MAP. I'll post about it when I see the results, it was painless. Do you know someone local who administers the WJ tetst?

the dogs' mother said...
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