Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Eat an Elephant

You know how to eat an elephant don't you? You have one bite at a time. (A brief aside here...I once had a colleague who asked why this joke couldn't be about cake. But then, who's to say an elephant wouldn't be just as tasty?)

About 8000 students in Washington are now taking on the math WASL one bite at a time. Known as "segmented math," students take the WASL at three different points during the year---each one representing a chunk of the whole test. By the end of the year, they have completed a whole WASL, but each test has only a few targets.

It is one option out of many in order to help students meet the standards and earn a diploma. The only unfortunate part at this point is that success on the segmented math test won't help any students who pilot it this year. I understand the reason for that from the state assessment perspective, but I also have a lot of sympathy for the kids I see each day sitting in our segmented math class who are not going to get anywhere for their efforts. It's already difficult enough to motivate them and keep them focused.

Overall, I do think that this is a reasonable way for the state to approach the math WASL. For those who wonder why the state doesn't move to end of course assessments instead (which would likely be a lot like these mini-WASLs), I believe the benefit to the segmented approach is that it still requires students to be well-rounded in their mathematical thinking. They need algebra and geometry and problem solving and so on. An end of course test is not going to produce the same sort of thinking.

And so this elephant---the one in the room for so long---the one which has long been known will be the Waterloo for many a high school student in pursuit of a diploma---has hopefully been made both appealing and edible. Want to know more? Have a look at the article in the Everett Herald.

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