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PUTTING THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS

 

 

By Lynn Stuter

November 30, 2005

NewsWithViews.com

Utah was the first state to openly rebel against President George W Bush’s strategic plan implementing systems education: the No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB. An August 17, 2005 usnewswire.com report states that 47 of the 50 states are in some type of rebellion against NCLB.

An article in the Tri-City Herald (Washington State) indicates the battle has now come to Washington State. Some interesting facts have come to light from the Richland School District fight with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington State; most notably the fact that the WASL — Washington’s Assessment[1] of Student Learning — is costing much more (by Richland’s figures, almost double) than what the OSPI has claimed: $60,000,000 instead of $30,000,000. Yes, $60 million per year.

Have the people of Washington State been lied to about the cost of the subjective WASL which is neither valid nor reliable[2]? Yes, they have.

The article in the Tri-City Herald makes some other interesting disclosures, heretofore denied by state and local officials:

“Terry Bergeson, state superintendent of public instruction, said she’s sympathetic to the Richland School District, but there’s nothing she can do. The federal government requires states to have a common assessment to hold schools and district equally accountable.

… ‘I hate to see the conflict that this resolution (referring to the resolution passed by the Richland School District school board) will bring’, Bergeson said. ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t able to resolve this, but I don’t have the authority to override federal law.’

… She added that when the federal No Child Left Behind law demanded states test students in all grades three through 10, the state put together about 20 committees to figure out how to expand the WASL in the best way possible.

‘We didn’t have a choice about whether to expand or not,’ Bergeson said.”

Wait a minute, heretofore Ms Bergeson, that pillar of truth and light (just ask her good buddy, Dr Shirley McCune), has claimed the WASL was grassroots, bottom up and local in flavor. Now she’s saying, no, that isn’t true, all of this is coming down from the feds? Gee, Ms Bergeson, it’s nice of you now, all these years later, to finally tell the truth about something you’ve vehemently denied heretofore.

The article makes a final disclosure that is all-telling:

“Bergeson said districts will lose federal dollars if they do not follow the law. The money is used to help at-risk students.”

When Washington State signed on to the systems education agenda, back in the early 1990’s, Washington State agreed to comply with the terms of the federal request for proposals (RFP) that governed the federal seed money (start up funds) the state applied for via the grant written (by Washington State) that had to meet the federal requirements set down in the RFP. In applying for and obtaining the federal seed money, Washington State entered into a de facto contract with the federal government in which Washington State agreed to comply with federal requirements at the state level, at the school and school district level.

Those requirements now govern education in Washington State, making the elected official who sits as the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State, in this case Terry Bergeson, not more than a highly paid puppet doing the biding of the federal government but paid by the people of Washington State.

This clarifies the statement made in the Tri-City Herald article,

“… according to documents submitted to the federal Department of Education in early 2003, the state clearly indicated that it would expand the WASL in 2006.”

The documents referred to are undoubtedly the OSPI report to the federal Department of Education on how Washington is meeting the federal requirements of NCLB as condition of continued receipt of federal funds at the state and school district level.

One parent in the Richland School District stated, referring to the possible loss of federal dollars,

“We cannot afford to just opt out as a form of a protest when it risks big money to the Richland School District … until they come up with something better, we have no business saying we’re not going to do it.”

My questions to this parent and all parents would be,

1, Can you afford not to opt out?
2, What is the total revenue of your district?
3, What is the total revenue your district receives from the federal government?
4, What is the ratio of federal revenue to total district revenue?
5, Do you realize that the amount of money your school district is receiving from the federal government is governing how every dollar in your district is spent?

By my calculations, using the last income and expense figures published by Washington State, Richland School district received in the 2003-04 school year a total of $67,175,656 in revenue — from local levies, state apportionment and federal grants. Of that total, $5,325,533 came from the federal grants. The percentage of federal revenue to all revenue is 7.9%. This means for every $1 in revenue received by the district 7.9¢ comes from the feds.

The total expenditures for the Richland School District for the 2003-04 school year was $66,580,099. Since all federal revenue must be spent and accounted for, the total expenditure of federal revenue would be 100%. This means for every $1 spent by the district 7.96¢ came from the feds.

Yet that approximate 8¢ governs everything the Richland School District does, including how the other 92¢ is spent.

I ask you, is the $5,325,533 received from the federal government worth the cost; worth the control be exerted by accepting it?

Where does the fault for this burgeoning boondoggle lie?

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It lies with the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction whose offices have written the grants to meet the federal RFP requirements and entered into the de facto contracts that now govern school districts also.

And the fault lies with the Washington State Legislature who has stood by while billions of taxpayer dollars have literally been flushed down the commode of a failed education system.

Richland School District Resolution 622 (PDF file)

Richland School District Resolution 623 (PDF file)

Footnotes:

1, An assessment is a subjective measure, not an objective measure. The WASL is to measure the “performance” of the child; whether the child is demonstrating mastery of the wanted behaviors as delineated by the “new basics” — teamwork, critical thinking, making decisions, communication, adapting the change and understanding whole systems (a.k.a. systems philosophy). These new basics are the foundation of the EALRs (Essential Academic Learning Requirements) which must align with the federal SCANS (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) competencies as framed in the eight national goals set down in Goals 2000. Although the Goals 2000 law has sunset, the goals are firmly entrenched in the exit outcomes of every state. In Washington State the exit outcomes are the EALRs
2, When an instrument, such as the assessment, is neither valid nor reliable, this means that the results are not consistent over time. One of the reasons the assessment isn’t valid or reliable is the fact that the results are subject to the whim of the sitting OSPI. In other words, the results the OSPI wants to see are directly reflected in the scoring criteria. Because students in Washington State are largely failing the assessment, the bar (what will be accepted) is being consistently lowered to bring the scores up and make it appear students are excelling when they are, in fact, failing.

© 2005 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved

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Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nationwide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas. Web site: www.learn-usa.com E-Mail: lmstuter@learn-usa.com 


 

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Have the people of Washington State been lied to about the cost of the subjective WASL which is neither valid nor reliable[2]? Yes, they have.