SK students give WASL test what for

The students and teachers of the South Kitsap School District deserve credit for their excellent showing on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) tests administered last spring to local fourth and seventh graders.

The results, released by the state last week, showed South Kitsap students improving their test scores in 11 of the 12 categories and exceeding Washington state averages in every single category — including reading, where SK scores were a whopping 10 points higher than the state average.

By any standard, those are results to cheer, even though we have mixed emotions about the WASL process in general.

On one hand, we believe strongly that the first and foremost responsibility of teachers at every level of primary education is to provide our children with a solid foundation in the basics of reading, writing, math and science. To that end, it is essential to periodically evaluate their progress in order to determine how well these lessons are being learned.

To the extent the WASL is able to provide those answers, we believe it is an invaluable tool, regardless of how how much angst the test inflicts on students and teachers every spring.

At the same time, with so much emphasis on the WASL, we run the risk of making success on the test an end unto itself rather than the measuring stick it was meant to be. Teachers devote considerable time and energy during students’ fourth- and seventh-grade years coaching them on testing methodology and the precise nuance and wording of potential questions in preparation for taking the test during the spring.

Not surprisingly, they get pretty adept at taking the test —which isn’t necessarily the same in every respect as actually mastering the subject matter. Still, it’s better than if the students weren’t addressing the basics at all — which is entirely possible in the absence of any testing.

The WASL, ultimately, is probably an imperfect tool. But even imperfect tools, in the hands of a skilled craftsman, can build a pretty impressive house.

And the South Kitsap School District, it would seem, has some very skilled craftsmen.

Hit piece misses mark

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission in all likelihood will decline to impose sanctions on Rep. Brock Jackley (D-Manchester) as a result of a mailing his campaign sent out last week slamming his opponent, Lois McMahan (R-Olalla).

But that doesn’t make Jackley’s tactics any less troubling.

The piece in question purports to outline McMahan’s weaknesses on various issues based on votes she cast while serving as a representative in the Legislature from the 26th District from 1996 to 1998.

But, as McMahan notes, the text offers little in the way of context or substantiation. It simply makes ominous-sounding charges while offering vague examples from her voting record as proof.

McMahan argues the mailer misrepresents her positions and, in some cases, misstates the truth. She also insists Jackley distributed similar materials when the two faced each other in the 2000 campaign. Afterwards, McMahan claims she complained to Jackley and he promised not to engage in negative campaigning in future races.

Jackley denies having such a conversation.

Whether, or to what extent, the contents of Jackley’s hit piece are true, however, isn’t really the point. It seems to us that, as the incumbent, Jackley ought to be content to campaign on his own record, not McMahan’s.

If Jackley is so proud of his own legislative accomplishments over the past two years — which include his active and enthusiastic support of the plan to build a tollbridge over the Tacoma Narrows, in defiance of the wishes of, at last count, more than 80 percent of his constituents — let him say so.

In the grand scheme of things, the voters of the 26th District would be far better served by examining how Brock Jackley actually has voted than by succumbing to scare tactics about how Lois McMahan might.

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