February 01, 2006
Washington state is again enmeshed in a testing imbroglio. Should high school seniors have to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to graduate? Neal Starkman, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer guest columnist, has a solution to appease all sides of the debate. "It's a degree for students who fail the WASL. It's the A.G. degree - Almost Graduated." Starkman's plan is simple. "Here's how it works: I'm a student who doesn't take tests well, principally because I can't read or write.... I take the WASL and I flunk it. Then I take it again and I flunk it. Then someone reads it to me and mouths the answers, and I flunk it. So what happens to me?" Well, you receive your Almost Graduated degree, and you feel just fine. In seriousness, legislatures across the nation face pressure to back down from graduation exam requirements and allow multiple re-takes, alternative exams, and exemptions. Recall, please, that standards can't effect positive change if they collapse at the first signs of pushback, and weak-tea tests that waste everyone's time are worse than no tests at all. Note to lawmakers: Be firm about your accountability demands, and you'll see results. Or you might as well offer an A.G. degree.
"A.G. degree almost as good as a diploma," by Neal Starkman, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 30, 2006