[EDEQUITY]More comments on the WASL

From: Rochelle Riling (seamouse@televar.com)
Date: Fri Sep 27 2002 - 15:34:49 EDT

In response to Darcy Lees and Stephanie Barlow's posts about Washington
Schools and what the WASL shows, I'd like to add the following:

The collective data reported by the state obscures what is going on in
individual school districts. In our school, over the past ten years girls
have come from behind, caught and surpassed the boys in Math and Verbal SAT
scores. However, they still perform more along traditional lines in Math
the WASL-- equal with boys in the lower grades, above them in middle school
and falling back in high school.

Boys and reading is defiantly some kind of issue in the schools I work in
we've begun trying to understand and to address that. Boys' writing scores
personally interest me. They perform horribly and yet men continue to
disproportionately make up the vast majority of major authors, magazine
editors and contributors, publishers, journalists, etc. What I hear from
anecdotally is that the WASL writing stuff is "stupid." I've heard from
teachers that once they began teaching writing geared toward the test,
interest in the subject dropped. My own two sons-- one just graduated HS,
graduating this year-- exceeded the Math, Reading and Listening standards
the WASL. But the older one refused to do any part of the Writing section
the younger one declined to finish that section of his test. Again, their
reasons were "it was too stupid."

In 2001 we did a brief survey of our tenth grade WASL takers-- an informal
attitude assessment. Hands down both boys and girls identified the math
section as the most difficult. In response, boys claimed that this was the
section they gave the most effort to and girls claimed it was the section
gave the least effort to. More males than females identified the writing
section as difficult but I don't recall their "effort" responses off the
of my head. Could look that up.

I had the pleasure of holding a series of formal conversations with middle
school students last year and raised the question of writing with the
They had quite a bit of wisdom to share. Some of their comments were along
these lines:

"Maybe our hands are just not as good at doing small things like that so
"I've heard that writing is about emotional stuff and that maybe it's
for us because of that."
"We don't do good at writing because we don't take the time for it. Like
girls, if there's a writing assignment, they'll work at it all the period
we'll be done in twenty minutes. We don't want to take the time for it."
"I think some of the things boys would want to write about the school would
not want us to write about."

I also asked them to talk about any writing assignments they did like.
liked less structured ones. They liked the kinds of exercises where
people are involved in constructing a story. They liked things where they
were writing like they were talking to another person.

Anyway, the idea that unequal scores equates to schools being opposed to
providing learning opportunities is a pretty big leap. My approach to
at my school is that there's something in it for everyone and the base line
increasing understanding about how differences
create different experiences,challenges, strengths and needs. Equity is
not a
one size fits all framework. Boys have issues. Girls have issues.
Addressing both is mutually beneficial.

-Rochelle Riling
Equity Coordinator/Title IX, Omak School District

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