Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The BS Test

A month in which the clouds part, the sun shines and the cherry trees are blossoming; in which winter finally ends and spring arrives. The bright yellow daffodils should be the harbinger of spring, bringing happiness to the people of Washington state but instead, March brings a look of anxiety and frustration to the expressions of parents and students. The dreading warning letters are sent home, advising excellent attendance, a goodnight’s sleep, and nutritious meals in preparation of the rigorous testing. March has been labeled the official WASL month.

The WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) is an exam taken by 4th, 7th, and 10th grade students. It consists of multiple-choice, short-answer and extended response questions in the subjects of reading, writing, math, and science. 10th graders are required to pass the reading, writing, and math sections in order to graduate from high school.

The graduation requirement has caused many problems for the kids who are unable to pass. Hispanic students and migrant children have a higher failure rate, along with kids in the “special education” problem. The vast majority of children from low-income families, as measured by eligibility for free or reduced lunch, also do not meet the standard.

The WASL is an unjust measure of accomplishment to the greatest extent. It has been calculated that there is a 28.9% chance that a child has had his or her test incorrectly scored. If it is stated that a child fails the WASL, there is no recourse or proof as every test is immediately shredded after scoring.

I propose an alternative exam for the graduation requirement of 10th grade students. The BS (Basic Skills) Test will test their ability to complete certain tasks that are essential for life after high school. Unlike the WASL, this test will score life skills helpful as individuals transition to independence. These functions include telling time (from a standard clock), ironing an article of clothing, pumping gas, washing dishes, vacuuming and more.

The assessment will take place in January instead of March because everybody already hates bleak-cold January. Everyone is reconciling their overspending on Christmas and spring is a distant light. So why not throw in a huge test? The test will most likely occupy a couple weeks. Classrooms in schools will serve as stations in which there is a particular event held. Students will be given schedules of the rooms in which they go to at a specific time.

After completing each task, the student will be graded by a trained professional. It is my utmost desire to recommend Martha Stewart in helping with the judging of household decorum. Mr. Clean would be a perfect candidate to teach proper dusting and degreasing skills, and Marie Callender is an expert at cooking frozen goods to taste like home-cooked.

An excellent job is rewarded with 4pts, fair receives 3pts, average equals 2pts, needs improvement would be 1pt, and 0pts is failing. Students will be graded down on mistakes such as leaving a crease in the blouse they are ironing or forgetting to twist on the gas cap after pumping gas.

There are many advantages to the BS Test. First of all, it will benefit kinesthetic learners. Many kids are unable to function optimally when expected to sit down for long periods of time. Instead of reading and writing, they are allowed to move around and perform physical activities. This would likely strengthen their scores.

Secondly, the students who fail the WASL because of the language barrier will no longer have this problem. Because the test is physically demonstrated, students will not have to read, write, or even speak in their 2nd language of English.

But my intention is far from being confined to just “dumb down” the original test; it is of much greater extent and will be created to actually help students once they start living on their own. This brings me to my third point. The WASL, in no sense, brings aide to the growing brains of young individuals. Its pointless questions and open ended answers are meaningless. The BS Test will actually give teens the knowledge to more competently cope with life. Is it more important to know how to feed yourself or to know what a parallel line is?

After many computations, I have discovered that the BS Test would cost approximately $200 million. Hosting several celebrities, who are known for their expertise on life skills, would cost a great deal of money. On top of that, many supplies and equipment are needed such as vacuums, washing machines, cooking supplies, etc.

I can think of no other objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal unless it should be urged that the students who already have the knowledge of completing basic skills will not be challenged. But isn’t the basic educational goal these days is for each student to feel successful and good about themselves?

Personally, this proposal has no effect on me. Being an 11th grade student, I have already taken the 10th grade WASL and passed all sections sufficiently. My high school diploma is not in jeopardy. However, if you are a younger reader, yours may be. I do not reject any other offer that also opposes the WASL. After fully explaining my proposal in depth, I believe it is up to my audience to decide what the best solution is. You’re ability to graduate is in your own hands.


ashapiro said...

Very well written piece Callie. I chose to read your essay solely due to your introduction. It was very intriguing but also really easy to connect with. Everyone knows that dreaded feeling of the infamous WASL. You created a very realistic atmosphere. I thought the most effective sarcasm was when you proposed that Mr. Clean and the other celebrities judge specific tasks. This correctly modeled Swift’s style of writing.

Hansen said...

The intro paragraph effectively employed imagery; you brought me into a peaceful setting and then crushed it with the WASL -- an excellent strategy. I found the whole idea and subject of your piece to be quite clever and was handled well. You mirrored Swift's style well. I found the paragraph explaining why the test should be in January enjoyable and a strong point of your essay. A good essay overall.

hattie said...

I thougt your intro paragraph was amazing! I loved how you mentioned that everyone is so excited for springtime but the dreaded WASL brings everyone down. I also enjoyed your title. I thought "BS" might stand for something bad, but as it turns out it stands for "Basic Skills." It was very clever if you were trying to put irony into your title. I found you writing style to be modeled after Swift's style. I think you did a great job on your piece. Good job Callie!

Eddie said...

Your intro was amazing, it hooked me right up. I too agree with your proposal, it seems better than the WASL. I am now wishing we had that kind of test instead of the WASL.I especially liked the part with the celebrities and how they would help you out. You also left a good hang for younger students and how they could make this possible if they wanted to, and that your jobs was done just by making the proposal. This was a well written piece. Great job, Callie.

Connorj said...

I enjoyed this piece the most of the ones I read simply for how much it was like Swift's. I think it's somewhat like a satire of a satire in the way you wrote it, which I think is a good angle. There was one key difference in the two writings, Swift's and yours-- Swift's solution was much more ludacris; yours almost feasible. Different styles; I prefer Swift's, not as a tribute to my own snobbery, just because I tend to lean towards rediculous ideas. Good stuff, though.

Chris said...

I really enjoyed reading your piece. I thought your intro helped people to really connect with the feeling of the oncomming WASL. I also found your idea of a more skills based test to be well crafted and thought out. This made your satire more effective. Nice job also on using characters such as Mr. Clean and Marie Callender as examples of trained professionals. Nice job overall

Brandon Rogers said...

I too share the hatred for January. Very well thought out introduction it sucked me in and I had to finish it. i believe your proposal is one that is not to far fetched; A skills test would benefit people in the long run. the name however is yet to be decided, the best title so far i must confess though.