Monday, September 04, 2006

Spo-CAN! Part III: Lawsuits Will Make Everything Better

The good folks at the Parent Empowerment Network are at it again, this time threatening to sue because they can’t get a good look at their sophomore’s test booklets. The quote from the article that really got me to thinking was this (the Finer mentioned is an attorney):

“These children, denied any opportunity to appeal their scores in a timely manner, had their academic careers altered to include summer school and/or remedial junior classes and this month’s retake, all without due process,” Finer wrote.
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“We’re tired of excuses. FERPA says that any student record, and that includes the WASL, may be requested for viewing and must be accessible for viewing within 45 – not when it is convenient for OSPI,” said Shelley Anderson, a parent involved with Mothers Against the WASL, the Spokane faction of the statewide PEN group.

There’s a couple of things here that bug me.

Consider that 45-day window that FERPA allows. The test isn’t going to go away, so to get the WASL booklets back to families that quickly you either have to a) get rid of the subjective element in the scoring or b) speed up the scoring process. If you take out the subjective element and leave only the multiple-choice/definite answer questions, you’ve neutered the test and have essentially reinvented the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Similarly, if you grade the tests quicker you’re going to also increase the number of scoring errors, which will raise dissatisfaction, which doesn’t help.

I’m also curious about the appeal option. There’s a link in the article to the score appeal guidelines (see here), and it'll be interesting to see both how many scores were appealed and how many were changed upon appeal, plus the breakdowns of the appeals by academic area.

You can find the math WASL online (the test and the scoring guide can both be found here). I did it, and I think it’s a fair test that accurately shows the kind of math that everyone needs to know. If your score on the math WASL was so close that an appeal of one or two questions will push you over, I’d suggest that you don’t know enough math and you probably should be grateful for the opportunities that are being provided.

But that’s just me.

You can read the entire article by clicking below.

Parents say scores released too late
Group wants WASL results in spring


A statewide parents group is threatening legal action against the state for refusing parents' requests to view their children's WASL test booklets this spring.

Spokane attorney Jeffry Finer has been retained on behalf of the Parent Empowerment Network to address "alarm at OSPI's failure" to provide redress to families, children and school districts affected by failing scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, the state's answer to the federal No Child Left Behind law.


Finer states that parents of sophomore students who failed one or more sections of the test this year weren't allowed to see their children's test booklets when they were released in June by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"These children, denied any opportunity to appeal their scores in a timely manner, had their academic careers altered to include summer school and/or remedial junior classes and this month's retake, all without due process," Finer wrote.

Only scores for sophomore students were released this summer so that students who did not pass one or more sections could prepare for a retake. Scores for other grade levels are expected in the coming weeks. No official date has been released.

Beginning with the class of 2007, the test is a requirement for graduation. Students have five chances to meet standards in reading, writing and math.

State officials said it has been clear that parents could view test booklets and appeal WASL scores only after Sept. 1.

The test booklets are disassembled for scoring. Subjective questions such as essay portions of the test are separated from multiple choice answers, and each portion is shipped to testing sites across the country, said Kim Schmanke, OSPI spokeswoman.

"The test booklets are literally ripped into pieces," Schmanke said.

The exams cannot be released until the scoring process is complete and the booklets are put back together, "and that takes a little more time," Schmanke said.

According to Finer's letter, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, parents must be provided viewing rights of student records within 45 days of the request.

"We're tired of excuses. FERPA says that any student record, and that includes the WASL, may be requested for viewing and must be accessible for viewing within 45 days – not when it is convenient for OSPI," said Shelley Anderson, a parent involved with Mothers Against the WASL, the Spokane faction of the statewide PEN group.

Other problems with the testing, as outlined in Finer's letter, include claims that OSPI destroyed past student exams and delayed the response of public records requests from the parent group.

Finer also states that parents of students in all grade levels must be allowed to appeal a child's score.

Under state guidelines, only parents of sophomore students can appeal test scores. Parents with children in all other grade levels may view the test but cannot appeal failing scores. Students are often identified for remediation based on performance on the WASL.

"We've been keeping the pressure on OSPI for more than a year," said Juanita Doyon, the director of the Parent Empowerment Network, based in Spanaway, Wash. "They need to change the process … so it does not override the rights of parents. If they don't, we will need to pursue legal action."

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