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Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the Editor

WASL: critical thinking

If most scored badly and some are offended, the score is offensive?

Editor, The Times:

"Item on WASL to be removed after complaints" [Times, Local News, March 23] involves a 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) reading section stereotyping Latinos as farm laborers working for dirt wages and risking deportation. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) says it should not have been part of the test without the historic context in which it takes place. OSPI will not count the test question "if" most of the Latinos scored badly. I find this biased and disgraceful.

State Superintendent Terry Bergeson continually evades protecting the children she oversees in statewide education. The WASL question is unfitting, yet OSPI appears only to remove the questionable portion because of a testing breach, not because it was offensive and could have a disproportionate and harmful impact on students.

WASL passage is now required for graduation. Remember last year, Bergeson, at the last minute, pulled the unlawful surveys attached to WASL because of forewarned litigation, not because the attached surveys were illegal to begin with.

Furthermore, the state superintendent disregards state law: She currently fails to have all the 2006 legislated WASL alternatives ready for student use. How many more chances does Bergeson get? More important, how much more harm do students have to endure from Bergeson's negligence?

-- Rebecca Venable, Cheney

The fallacy of suppressed evidence

At long last, K-12 public education is subject to accountability. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Why then is there proposed state legislation to take away accountability? ["Students start taking WASL; lawmakers debate its future," Local News, March 13.]

In a recent national study, the WASL, our state's standardized test, was given an F in math. Rather than fix the WASL, some in our Legislature want to eliminate accountability. Is accountability the problem or is it the test?

Let's take a look at a WASL math question: ABC Middle School principal needs help writing a survey question to collect information from students in the school. She wants to find out if the students are willing to buy healthier but more-expensive lunch items. Which question should the principal put on the survey to get the information she needs?

Does math appear to be missing from the above question? The aforementioned national study claimed that the Washington state math assessment standards are "poorly written, unclear, and needlessly long, often having little apparent connection to math."

When do we address the truth? The WASL math test — not our children, not accountability — is flawed. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction should take responsibility and add clarity and reason to our standardized tests. Our children, when properly prepared using end-of-class assessments, will pass any reasonable standardized test.

That the Legislature wants to eliminate accountability at any level rationalizes incompetence. Until we fix our standardized test, we should not punish our children; but we must always protect, maintain and multiply accountability.

-- Evelyn Castellar, supplemental education services provider, Federal Way School Board director

Swiss cheese model

Regarding "10th-grade WASL may ditch math and science" [page one, March 26]: My favorite quote: "But it's high time to dump the math WASL, Sullivan says. He says he's heard too many stories about students who excel in advanced-math classes, yet fail that part of the test."

I wonder if Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, would let a surgeon operate on him who "excelled" in med school, but flunked all his exams. Or if he'd get on an airplane where the pilot flunked his exams, but claimed he really, really was a good pilot, and it's just those darned tests and he shouldn't be expected to remember the material after the class.

And, of course, what's left of the tests should be multiple-choice, because in the real world, if a pilot is faced with an emergency, all he has to do is press one of the four buttons on the control panel! He's got a 25 percent chance of getting it right! But he'd never realize that, either, because probability is getting dumped from the test.

-- Walter Bright, Kirkland

Liberal raves

Light on our effete

Regarding "One year later: Living with the memory of the Capitol Hill tragedy" and "Raves continue, but some say 'soul' is gone" [page one and Local News respectively, March 25]: Are you serious? I'll acknowledge the tragedy of the shooting on Capitol Hill, but these parties are, for the most part, outlets for misfit kids who have nothing better to do with their time than to take ecstasy, among other drugs, and fade into oblivion.

What a waste of space. Quit trying to justify this activity as if it had any type of soul. The underground drug culture in this city is bad enough without The Seattle Times crying over a bunch of misfits.

This group of kids does have a place: They keep the tattoo parlors, skin-piercing parlors and pharmaceutical drug trade alive and well.

Good job, Seattle Times. You epitomize what a pathetically liberal town Seattle continues to be.

-- Rick Thomas, Woodinville

Change for all time

Don't short the messenger

With all due respect to letter writer Lynn Self ["Stupid stamp: Destination Loserville," Northwest Voices, March 22], a department like the U.S. Postal Service is one of the easiest to attack. Not as easy a target as secondhand smoke, perhaps, but easy enough.

The "forever stamp" idea might work and could work. The rate adjustments scheduled for May of this year appear to be fair. Where can one buy anything for 41 cents? Forty-one cents — drop it in the mail and in a few days, it's safely in someone's hands in Florida!! Amazing!!

As for the ever-escalating price increases from other "communication" services, I wonder what Self thinks about the deregulation of the phone companies, cable TV services, etc.

Rate increases don't describe what those industries have done to the public or what they have prepared for us in the future. Nothing ever existed for 41 cents in their world of business, nor will we ever see anything. You could also buy a lot of stamps for the cost of remote-control batteries and phone batteries.

Rain or shine, the mail goes through, and for only 41 cents. Three cheers for the Postal Service.

-- Tony Spanovic, Bethel, Alaska

Complete this sentence

The thief or Baghdad ...

Regarding "Fort Lewis soldier charged with robbing bank twice" [Local News, March 24]: Isn't this the second report about soldiers who would rather face jail time than deploy to Iraq? I don't blame them.

-- Crystal Hayes, Lynnwood

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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