Looks of satisfaction in the crowd and a smattering of applause marked a decision made by the Sunnyside School Board Thursday night. The local school directors voted to submit a legislative proposal to the Washington State School Districts Association (WSSDA) that would call for the replacement of WASL testing.
The proposal was brought to the board by members of the Circle of Justice, a group that was organized by Nuestra Casa. Sister Mary Rita Rhode with Nuestra Casa said the group began meeting in February to talk about concerns they had regarding a variety of topics. However, in the end the group decided to focus their attention on one topic of concern for them, which ended up being the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) tests.
Rhode said the group slowly grew from its original 12 members to more than 24 parents who come together on a regular basis to talk about what they can do to make a difference, especially when it comes to the WASL.
According to Rhode, over the past several months the group has met with everyone from Sunnyside Supt. Dr. Rick Cole to Rep. Dan Newhouse.
Rhode said the group asked Newhouse if he would work with the Circle of Justice to replace the WASL with a another test.
However, the group of dedicated parents didn't stop there. Instead, they decided to take their concerns one step further. Thursday night, they talked to the Sunnyside School Board about submitting a legislative proposal to WSSDA for inclusion in the organization's legislative program.
Luce Balderas, a member of the Circle of Justice and a mother of five children, talked to the school board on behalf of the group.
Speaking in Spanish she told the board members that children are making themselves ill thinking about the WASL test and what it could mean for them if they don't pass.
"There are other ways of testing to see if children are learning, such as the Measures of Academic Progress, which gives us, as parents, immediate feedback on how our children are doing in school," Balderas said. "This kind of testing makes more sense to us and will help all in education provide for the gaps in student learning in a more timely manner than the WASL."
She told the board that this is the reason they were asking them to submit the legislative proposal to WSSDA.
The proposal, which school board members voted to approve, encourages WSSDA to support legislation that would "do away" with the WASL test and find other means of testing students across the state.
School board member Bill Smith suggested that the board approach other districts in the Valley to see if they would also be interested in supporting the legislative call to action.
. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org