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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Keeping tests private keeps parents uninvolved

The Spokesman-Review

The following editorial appeared Tuesday in the Yakima Herald-Republic.

So the state will now allow parents to see their children’s Washington Assessment of Student Learning test scores.

We’re amazed that such access was ever denied. At a time when so many like to preach parental responsibility, parents were denied the right to see the grading on arguably the most important tests in their children’s lives? That makes no sense.

WASL is a test of reading, writing and math given in the fourth, seventh and 10th grades. Adopted by the state eight years ago, passage is required for high school graduation starting in 2008.

The Associated Press reported that since introducing the test in 1997, state education officials have refused parent requests to see it, citing a state law that shields the test from public view. Officials feared copies of the tests would be passed around, allowing students to cheat.

A Seattle woman filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education and was granted permission to view the tests. The state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office subsequently learned that the test booklets are considered “educational records.” The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 allows parents and students over age 18 to view such records and make necessary changes. SPI is working with the state Attorney General’s Office to draw up a policy for handling requests.

SPI officials said they were interpreting the state law too literally. Indeed they were.

The AP story quoted a Richland parent who (in May) was granted access to her seventh-grade son’s test after signing a nondisclosure agreement and agreeing not to make copies of the test: “It was so informational, I wish every parent could see it, every teacher could see it. It would add so much to the educational process.”

Score one for parental responsibility.

We are among those who believe that parents should be more involved in their children’s education, and to make that happen schools must cooperate by providing all the necessary information to help them.

Given the importance of WASL testing in a student’s progress toward graduation, how in the name of common sense could the parents be denied access to such helpful information?

WASLs are intimidating enough without adding unnecessary secrecy to the mix.

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