June 30, 2008 · Updated 4:00 PM
Much ado has been made recently about the “beautiful victory” and so-called Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) success. Terry Bergeson boasts that 91.4 percent of the class of 2008 has met standard on the reading and writing WASL. The media is tripping over itself to print news of this success story. The WASL train wreck didn’t happen! Hooray!
Or did it?
What Bergeson doesn’t want you to notice are the thousands of students removed from the official count. Statistically irrelevant, they are neither counted in the official WASL results for the class of 2008, nor are they added into the results for the class of 2009. They are in statistical limbo. Thousands have left the public school system, thousands more have been reclassified into lower grades, yet none of them are included in the WASL results.
In 2006, Bergeson traveled to Massachusetts to learn more about the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). The MCAS results had previously been declared a “miracle.” What Bergeson learned was not how to effectively improve student learning, rather, she learned how to creatively manipulate the numbers and create the illusion of success.
When creating the Massachusetts miracle, that state’s education leaders simply did not factor into the equation the staggering rise in the state’s high-school drop-out rate. Not content with excluding thousands of students who have left the public school system, Bergeson has taken it one further. She found a way to exclude thousands of students from the class of 2008, who are still in school, by creatively reclassifying them into different grades.
Will we ever know precisely how many students from the original class of 2008 passed the WASL? It’s hard to say. Bergeson’s office changes the numbers more often than Imelda Marcos changes shoes. The original enrollment numbers for the class of 2008, when they entered their freshman year in 2004, was 89,970. This year, Bergeson lowered that figure to 81,196, and then claimed that there were 81,925 students from the class of 2008 enrolled in school as of October of 2007. By May, that number had dropped to 71,167. Yet the June report on this stunning WASL success only counts the WASL scores for 67,099 students of the class of 2008. Of that number, a mere 61,327 met standard.
This transmutation of WASL statistics reminds me of George Orwell’s “1984” where history is rewritten to conform to the Party’s most recent pronouncements. What Bergeson’s “Department of Truth” has failed to grasp is that we have been paying attention and are willing to speak up. We won’t be duped into accepting the lies. Our children deserve better. Our teachers deserve better. We deserve better.
It’s time to get this derailed train back on the right track, and that begins with an honest reporting of the facts regarding WASL results. If Bergeson won’t do that, then perhaps we need to find someone who will.