The WASL has been much on my mind recently, and not just because the state Legislature yesterday moved to make the test shorter and less expensive. My 3rd grade daughter started taking practice WASL tests to prepare for the real deal in April, and she has brought home sample questions from previous years to work on as homework. She hates them. And so do I.
I didn’t start out being opposed to the WASL. I liked the idea of a test that would force teachers to pay attention to historically neglected low-achieving students. That may be happening, although I’m not sure achievement has risen as a result. What I know for sure is that the test isn’t helping my child’s education.
The test samples she has brought home are deadly boring. They consist of short reading selections written in the driest way possible, after which follow a series of questions meant to test comprehension but are really tortuous exercises in finding micro-points that nobody but a test examiner would be interested in. They do not encourage debate, or thinking, or deep analysis or, perhaps most importantly, an interest in reading. Of course, my daughter -- who reads rapaciously, whose comprehension is such that she can recite every Greek myth ever written, who loves to learn quite independently from school -- can barely bring herself to do these exercises. And the worst part of it all is that the entire K-12 curriculum is now one giant WASL preparation.