"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, November 07, 2008

Referendum on Testing Brings Down State Superintendent

From the Post-Intelligencer:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson ended her bid for a fourth term Thursday, capping an unusually close race that was widely viewed as a referendum on state testing.

Randy Dorn, the executive director of Public School Employees of Washington and a former educator and state legislator, will take over as the state's top education official in January.

Bergeson called Dorn to concede the race Thursday afternoon, after the latest wave of election returns showed he continued to lead by nearly 60,000 votes. "I told him I'd do whatever I could to help him in this transition," she said.

Although she's disappointed, "I'm happy people gave me the opportunity to do this for 12 years," she said.

During the campaign, Dorn tapped into voter discontent over the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, a statewide annual test Bergeson helped create.

He said one of his top priorities will be replacing the WASL with a shorter, simpler, less expensive test that can track academic progress and diagnose problem areas.

When he steps into his new role, Dorn also will face a number of weighty issues, such as figuring out adequate state funding for public schools and reducing the high school dropout rate.

There are no easy answers to the latter, but helping students understand the value of a good education is a start, he said. The key is getting them interested in school -- maybe through music, the arts, career and technical programs, sports or extracurricular clubs, he said.

"It's not just about academics in the classroom," he said. "Your education doesn't stop at the schoolhouse doors."

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