August 27, 2008 · Updated 8:12 PM
Imagine yourself as an 11-year-old boy. You are a kind, considerate young man. You have been in a special education program since you were in the first-grade and receive daily assistance with reading. This year, you have been particularly proud of yourself because you have made great strides in improving your reading ability. Many times you have reminded your teacher, with a big smile on your face, that you feel so good about how much better you are doing with your reading and thanked her for all she has done for you. After much hard work, you can finally read at a second-grade level.
Now, imagine yourself being forced into taking a test that was created for fifth-grade readers, because, after all, you are in the fifth-grade. No matter how hard you try, there is no way that you can read what you are expected to read. You get frustrated and you start to feel like a failure. All the pride and good feelings you had about last week are erased in a couple of hours. You start to cry and tears run down your face and onto your test booklet.
I am the Special Education teacher who has nurtured and cared for this boy for five years. This is a true story about the effects of WASL testing. One test is intended to tell the state how successful a student is. With one test, students are marked, tagged and labeled as a failure if they do not pass. I dont care what this test says. This young man is a success to me. He should be a success to President Bush, to Governor Gregoire and to Terry Bergeson. How very sad they will not see him that way. He will be seen by their system as a failure. What a shame. The WASL is a million dollar a year waste of money for the Washington state taxpayers. It is degrading and demoralizing.
I truly believe there should be standards in educating. However, I do not believe that forcing a child with a disability to take an assessment that is clearly not at his level of learning has any validity at all. I also do not believe that even average students should have this test be the defining moment of their educational careers. High stakes testing must be suspended. There must be a more humane way to assess our students. If Governor Gregoire and Terry Bergeson cannot come up with one, maybe it is time to elect someone who cares about our childrens dignity. Thankfully, President Bush is on his way out.
Nancy Hammer, Special Education Teacher
Marysville School District