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Thursday, August 7, 2008

State School Superintendent Bergeson Fails WASL, Has Serial Killer Handwriting

posted by on August 7 at 11:01 AM

By now, most of you you have probably read and reread the Stranger Election Control Board’s mind-blowing primary endorsements a few thousand times. Which means you would’ve seen this:

[Current State School Superintendent Terry] Bergeson has consistently defended the WASL as a high-stakes requirement for graduation. We decided it would be funny to present Bergeson and her challengers with a few sample questions from the WASL and she bombed the test. Bergeson only answered two out of the three questions we put to her and both her answers were wrong.

It’s totally true. Here’s the evidence:


As you already know, the SECB endorsed Bergeson’s opponent Randy Dorn. Mostly because Mr. Dorn’s tidy handwriting does not indicate a predilection for the taste of human flesh.

The three sample questions—from grades 3, 7 and 10—are from the Port Angeles School District’s website.

Answers after the break.

Tom, Dick and Harry work in a bank. One is the manager, one is the cashier and one is the teller. The teller, who was an only child, earns the least. Harry, who married Tom’s sister, earns more than the manager. What position does each person fill?

-Tom-manager; Dick-teller; Harry-cashier

Penny works in the Package Palace. It is Penny’s Job to stamp the sides of the packages that are not touching the floor and not touching another package. Today there are 25 packages on the floor. Penny put the packages in 5 stacks, and the sides of the stacks touch. How many sides of packages must Penny stamp?


The local recycling plant has just bough a new metal compactor that produces a smaller cube of scrap iron than does the older machine. Somebody noticed, however, that the combined volumes of one cube from each compactor was numerically the same as the combined lengths of all their edges. What are the dimensions of the cubes, if you consider only integral solutions?

-4 units; 2 units

RSS icon Comments


#2 is a horribly worded question.

It says "sides of packages that are not touching ...", but it means "sides that are not touching ..."

The answer to question #2, as it is written, is ZERO.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 7, 2008 11:12 AM

Which makes it an even worse thing to be basing a pass/fail for high school on @1.

There's a reason why the KC Dems didn't endorse her.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 7, 2008 11:22 AM

Another problem with the second question is that it is not stated but assumed (in order to get the "correct" answer) that the stacks are arranged linearly. I.e.


as opposed to


for example.

Posted by jebus h. xst | August 7, 2008 11:25 AM

Bergeron's answers are sad, but I don't see what's wrong with the wording of the questions or the requirement that you be able to cope with just a tiny bit of common-sense thinking problems in order to pass high school. I think the WASL should be a lot harder, personally.

Posted by Fnarf | August 7, 2008 11:27 AM

Also, what are the shapes of the packages? Triangular, planar packages can be arranged differently than rectangular packages, can be arranged differently than cubic packages.

What an absolutely shitty question.

Posted by A Non Imus | August 7, 2008 11:32 AM

The questions are OK so long as full credit is given for a "correct" answer based on corresponding reasonable assumptions. Strictly giving credit for "65" for the second problem is wrong considering that there are reasonable alternatives.

Posted by jebus h. xst | August 7, 2008 11:33 AM

@5 Very nice. Yep, I assumed the packages were rectangular prisms.

While we're picking nit... What about question one and the "only child" bit? Couldn't he have been an only child whose parents later adopt a girl? That's out there, but it makes the problem unsolvable.

Posted by jebus h. xst | August 7, 2008 11:42 AM

In question 2, I assumed the packages were cuboids and that the top and the bottom were "sides" as well. Hence I got (25*6 sides)-5 sides on the floor-(4*2*5) sides touching other sides = 105. And I have a graduate degree in a technical field, so either I'm an idiot and grad school standards have seriously fallen, or this is a badly written question.

Posted by tsm | August 7, 2008 11:44 AM

@1, @5: It also doesn't mention how many boxes are in each stack. The most extreme case (assuming one box does not a "stack" make) would be piles of 2, 2, 2, 2, and 17 boxes.

Posted by Dr. Savage Mudede | August 7, 2008 11:45 AM

Jesus, you people are stupid. TSM, you fail at reading. COUNT THEM, it takes five seconds. Dr. Savage Mudede, how do you stack things in your own house? These are not math problems, they're basic common sense story problems.

Posted by Fnarf | August 7, 2008 11:55 AM

How does a cashier make more than a manager?

Posted by iflurry | August 7, 2008 11:57 AM

#2 is ambiguous, yes, but I think it's kind of irrelevant because the WASL is graded on more than the correct answer. If you drew out boxes in stacks of 2, 2, 2, 2, and 17, and then got the correct answer, they would probably give you full credit.

I'd be more worried about #3 because it's kind of hard to even tell what's going on. I had to re-read "the combined volumes of one cube from each compactor" a few times for some reason.

#8, where did you get (4*2*5) sides touching other sides?

Posted by w7ngman | August 7, 2008 11:58 AM

tsm's methodology is fine, but 150 - 5 - 80 does not equal 105. In fact it equals 65.

I agree, though, that the questions are worded in a confusing and ambiguous way. I think you should make sure that all of the difficulty is related to the skill you're actually trying to test. So sure, include more difficult questions, but word them so that it is clear what is being asked.

Posted by minderbender | August 7, 2008 12:03 PM

#8 you forgot to also subtract out the touching "tops" and "bottoms": 5*2*4 again.

I agree that #3 is hard to parse. The writing for all three questions was abysmal.

Posted by AEleen | August 7, 2008 12:09 PM

I didn't really have a problem with that second question, but apparently I made all the correct assumptions (5 even stacks in a single line). It is very poorly worded though.

That third question is fucking ridiculous though. "Integral" is meant to mean "integer," and "all their edges" means all 12 edges, not the 3 dimensions of the cubes as I'd interpreted it. It even took me a few minutes to figure out what the problem was asking.

The fact that I'm an engineer and I had a hard time with the third one is a testament to the fact that the WASL sucks ass. I came up with an answer, but I probably wouldn't have gotten credit for it since the problem was poorly worded.

Posted by T | August 7, 2008 12:10 PM

@2: But unfortunately they didn't endorse anyone.

Randy Dorn is awesome, btw. Never seen a guy who is clearly in his 50s/60s so pumped... to be a superintendent of schools, no less. But he also knows what is up in our schools.

@3: It also assumes the stacks are all the same height. A stack of 21 lined up next to four stacks of one, for example, would have 97 exposed sides.

@8:, because the "sides of the *stacks* touch, not simply the sides of the *packages*, so the stacks themselves touch each other, so you need to subtract a further (5*2*4) to account for that additional (horizontal) touching.

Kids who do this sort of thorough thinking are clearly bright enough to graduate high school (they are probably bright enough to be well beyond it), but they will end up failing the brain-dead WASL.

Best advice to give a smart kid taking the WASL, I guess, then, is "assume the people who wrote the test are marginally intelligent, uncreative monkeys".

Posted by K | August 7, 2008 12:10 PM

Oh sorry. I thought tsm took into account the tops and bottoms of the boxes stacked on top of each other, which subtracts another 5*4*2.

Posted by minderbender | August 7, 2008 12:11 PM

I always construct my packages out of trapezoidal mirrors.

It confuses the space pirates and keeps them safe.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 7, 2008 12:11 PM

You're an engineer, and you don't know the difference between and edge and a side? Please tell me you don't work for Boeing.

Posted by Fnarf | August 7, 2008 12:14 PM

@8 - (4*2*5) is where you messed up. That accounts for either vertical sides touching or horizontal sides touching, but not both.

It should be (25*6 sides)-5 sides on the floor-(4*2*5 vertical sides touching) - (4*2*5 horizontal sides touching) = 65

Personally, I think it's easier to just picture the stack and count exposed sides.

5x5 on one face of the stack = 25
5x5 on the other face = 25
5 on the top
5 on one side
5 on the other side
25+25+5+5+5 = 65

I agree with @13. For a math or logic test, you're trying to determine if the student can do the calculations, not sort out what the question probably means. With a little more effort, these questions could be worded unambiguously.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 7, 2008 12:14 PM

And I should point out that while the KC Dems did not endorse anyone in the Superintendent race, they endorsed MULTIPLE candidates in MANY races, so the lack of an endorsement in this race is very very very glaring and a definite NON-endorsement for an INCUMBENT who was previously endorsed by them.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 7, 2008 12:15 PM

Wait, does she not have to stamp the sides of the packages that a on the floor or does she not have to stamp the "side" of the package on the floor that is touching the floor? Are we disqualifying stamping the bottom box altogether or only the bottom "side" of that box? Same goes for boxes touching each other.

The question is just too damn ambiguous to allow you to answer it with any level of confidence.

Are the stacks touching each other on only one side or are they touching on multiples sides? How tall are the stacks? How many sides do the packages have? Are they envelopes, cube boxes, tubes, pyramids?

To me it seems like you could almost pick a number under around 100 out of the air and it would end up being right depending on the arraignment of the boxes. Pretty much the only way to really answer the question and know you got it right is to clearly explain all the wrong answers.

Posted by Super Jesse | August 7, 2008 12:16 PM

Speaking from the experience of teaching high school science for five years, all I can say is that the WASL is a colossal waste of time, resources, and energy, and that I'm not surprised one bit by Bergeson's answers. She's a nitwit, and I don't need too see her embarrassing responses to a poorly written exam to reach that conclusion.

The WASL (and its administration) embodies everything that is broken about public education.

Posted by Cockle | August 7, 2008 12:28 PM

This reminds me of the logic section in the LSAT. I only got two out of three right on this WASL, but I got every question right on that section of the LSAT. Either the LSAT is too easy, or the WASL is too hard. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Of course, the state exams back in NYC for high school asked questions like the following.

Was George Washington:

a) The First President of the USA,

b) The First President of Mexico,

c) The Thirtieth President of Spain.

Only 40% of my high school class passed the state exams, by the way.

Posted by former law student | August 7, 2008 12:40 PM

@19 To me, the logical way of describing a cube is to say it's LxLxL, not LxLxLxLxLxLxLxLxLxLxLxL. So you'll have to excuse me for not immediately following the exact path of logic as you and the person that wrote the question.

Besides, if I were you, I'd be more worried that I could work for WSDOT. Lucky for you, I don't have to deal with relating the volumes and dimensions of different trash cubes.

Posted by T | August 7, 2008 12:48 PM

OT, but... You guys went with Hill over Graham? I'm kind of shocked. Hill doesn't strike me as particularly progressive, down-to-earth, or sincere. Graham may not knock progressive balls out of the park, but she's compassionate and wasn't born with a suburban latte spoon in her mouth. And while Hill may have done plenty of civil rights legislation, Graham knows first hand what civil rights means.

Oh, and Holly Hill and her husband used to run a dotcom selling censorware (you know, the sort that prevent teenagers from reading, MoJo, anti-censorship sites,, etc.). The ACLU fought their company in court in 2003 (Edelman v. N2H2, Inc.) over the right to circumvent and to have their blacklist published. This sure doesn't help my impression.

Of course, the cool thing to do this year is apparently to dual-endorse both Hill and Graham, for some wishy-washy reason.

Posted by K | August 7, 2008 12:53 PM

Yeah, the second question really blew; i got 0 boxes as well by the way it is worded. it is really embarrassing though that she got even the first question wrong.

Posted by Cook | August 7, 2008 12:54 PM

I must think like a high school student because #2 made total sense to me as written. #3 puzzled me, glad to know I wasn't the only one. I got 1 & 2 right is that enough to graduate me from high school?

Posted by PopTart | August 7, 2008 12:59 PM

We've now entered the silly phase I guess. Next are you going to start asking who is wearing a flag pin? The Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected to manage K-12 schools, not pass a few questions that they would have passed in 10th grade when they were studying the content of the test. Can you honestly remember the quadratic formula? do you remember what it is for? If your job is to manage and set policy - is this instrumental knowledge to your day to day life?

Come on folks. Let's start talking about how we are going to REFORM education! Only 41% of our high school graduates have taken the classes necessary to apply to a four year college. In Seattle, it is only 17%! And, that's only the graduates - remember that we lose about a third before graduation day. Let's talk about how to fix THAT problem. Let's talk about children and their future.

Posted by ivoteforkids | August 7, 2008 1:12 PM

1 is the only straightforward question but it seems a little hard for 3rd graders. 2 contains two layers of ambiguity -- as written only sides of non-touching packages need to be stamped. By dividing the packages into equal stacks, every package touches another, first, because that is the nature of stacking, and second because the sides of the packages touch per the set up. Thus no sides need to be stamped, because all packages touch another one. Rewriting the question to mean non-touching sides of packages, we make the stacks equal height to minimize the number of sides that are stamped, because irregular height stacks have more exposed sides. Then we realize we can make a square out of four of the stacks to further minimize the number of exposed sides, making a blocky sort of L in top view. The top of each stack must be stamped for a total of 5; the fifth stack has five packages times three sides exposed for a total of 15; the block of four has five packages times seven sides for a total of 35 sides. The grand total is thus 5+15+35, or 55 sides.

The third question is perhaps legitimate for 10th grade, but I remember no tricks for solving a cubic equation. Thus I would have to do messy trial and error calculations beginning by assuming l1 = 2 and l2 = 1.

Posted by dr. science | August 7, 2008 1:39 PM

Is this really how tests are worded in Washington? Wow.

1. This was the only decently worded question of the bunch.

2. It could have just said "Penny has 25 boxes in equal stacks placed next to each other. Penny must stamp EVERY box side that she can see. How many is this?"

And its still a dumb question, because it can either be interpreted as 60 or 65, as the top sides present an ambiguity.

(I first came up with 48 - sides not touching the ground told me not to count any box on the bottom row, and i omitted the top. What a clusterfuck.)

3. Is this a question? Combined length of all edges? Does that mean (L + W + H) or (3 * L), given that a cube has all equal sides, or does that mean (12 * L), for the total number of edges on a cube? The first part was easy enough - combined volumes, okay, thats L * W * H, or L^3. So thats L1^3 + L2^3. Then what?

I'm going to junior year of college with a 3.3 GPA. These questions should not be confusing to me, given that they have been designed for 10th graders and that I passed 10th grade math (disclosure: I'm a native New Yorker, and went to high school there.). Oh, and I finished my minor in math last semester.

And people worry about the SAT. That's a cakewalk compared to this bullshit.

Posted by Adam | August 7, 2008 2:05 PM


Exactly! Why is the test for simply passing high school harder than the test for higher education?

Posted by former law student | August 7, 2008 2:21 PM

My best guess for figuring out the third one:

Volume equals 12 times the length of one edge.

Then include the formula for calculating a cube's volume: volume equals one edge to the third power.

x=3.46 (approx.)

Which gets me the wrong answer apparently. The only way I figure this works is if whoever wrote the question assumed that a cube has 16 edges.


The test writers appear to be stupider than the students.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 7, 2008 2:25 PM

I spent about 15 minutes trying to answer the third question, but I was experimenting with numbers in my head. Also, I assumed all edges means all edges, ala #31, and was multiplying everything by 12. And there's no way that (4*12)+(2*12)==(4*4)+(2*2).

And that was after ignoring the fact that they used 'integral' wrong.

The closest I got was 9 and 14, by the way, with a volume of 277, and a combined edge length of 276.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | August 7, 2008 2:35 PM

Oh shit, I'm dumb. volume not area. Fuck.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | August 7, 2008 2:37 PM

Question 2 is really terrible. My answer was 53 based on the "the packages that are not touching the floor". So I didn't count the bottom layer of packages and their 12 sides.

An alternative answer would be zero, since one reading indicates that only boxes floating in mid-air should be stamped.

Finally, if you stack four piles in a cube with one pile touching the cube on one side, then the answer would be 55.

No wonder our childrens is failing. They've been set up to be wronged not matterz what theys says.

Posted by Smartypants | August 7, 2008 2:58 PM


You have two cubes with side lengths of x and y. The volume of the two combined is equal to the total length of their edges. So the equation is

x^3 + y^3 = 12x + 12y

where x x and y are integers

At this point, I'm not sure how to proceed without trial and error.

Posted by lol | August 7, 2008 3:10 PM

I found the 2nd the easiest of the three. Every complaint I've seen about it is accounted for if read correctly. It doesn't matter how high the stacks are or whether or not the boxes are the same size. There is only one answer possible from the text as written.

Three was the hardest for me. I'd like to know the recommended solution method. My guess was that one just plugs in values to an equation derived from the situation described until the two that fit are found. I assumed it's common sense to begin this process with the smallest integers, making the arithmetic quick and painless. Still, it take some time. How much is allowed?

Posted by John | August 7, 2008 3:21 PM

@13, 18 et al - OK, yes, I'm an idiot. I can't believe I forgot about the sides of the packages within the stacks. That's what I get for hurriedly reading and dashing off a post like that in the thirty seconds before a meeting.

Posted by tsm | August 7, 2008 3:34 PM

There is only one answer possible from the text as written.

No. I would however accept that, if one is given the "correct" answer, there is only one possible way to interpret the text. But you have to make the same unconscious assumptions as the author.

Question 2 was written by an unimaginative pinhead, and only another unimaginative pinhead could get it right.

Posted by dr. science | August 7, 2008 3:36 PM

Randy Dorn tried to persuade the legislature to pass legislation boosting pensions. Just two people would have benefited from the measure - Randy Dorn and a union lobbyist.

Can you spell S-L-E-A-Z-Y?

In other news, Dorn is just any other one-issue candidate. Like all the others, he's anti-WASL. The irony is that Dorn was part of the team that dumped the WASL on us in the first place. Coincidentally, he didn't begin speaking out against the WASL until he decided to run for office.

So it's hardly surprising The Stranger decided to endorse Randy Dorn. Although The Stranger bills itself as an "alternative" newspaper, it's actually just another member of the corporate media. Its staff are nothing more than media whores.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for Supt. of Public Instruction

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 7, 2008 4:24 PM

Randy Dorn tried to persuade the legislature to pass legislation boosting pensions. Just two people would have benefited from the measure - Randy Dorn and a union lobbyist.

Can you spell S-L-E-A-Z-Y?

In other news, Dorn is just any other one-issue candidate. Like all the others, he's anti-WASL. The irony is that Dorn was part of the team that dumped the WASL on us in the first place. Coincidentally, he didn't begin speaking out against the WASL until he decided to run for office.

So it's hardly surprising The Stranger decided to endorse Randy Dorn. Although The Stranger bills itself as an "alternative" newspaper, it's actually just another member of the corporate media. Its staff are nothing more than media whores.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for Supt. of Public Instruction

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 7, 2008 4:24 PM

@37: now factor:

x^3 + y^3 = (x + y)(x^2 - xy + y^2)

x+y is not zero (x and y are positive), so you can cancel it from both sides of the equation. That leaves

x^2 - xy + y^2 = 12

which is more manageable. From here you need to use the fact that x and y are positive integers and some heuristics.

Method 1: add and subtract xy to get

(x - y)^2 + xy = 12.

Both terms on the left side are positive, so in particular neither can be greater than 12 and one of them is a square. Squares less than 12: 1, 4, 9. Trial and error gets you x=4, y=2 (or vice versa).

Method 2: treat y as a constant and solve using the quadratic formula for x. x is an integer, so in particular the part under the radical (48-3y^2) must be nonnegative and a perfect square. That forces y=4, so x=2. The roles of x and y are interchangeable, so again x=4, y=2 is also a solution.

FWIW I have a PhD in Math and I thought the questions were hard for elementary school kids. I'd rather see more straightforward tests of basic skills, like factoring, quadratic formula, exponents, etc. It's the basic skills that kids are often lacking when they get to college...they understand how to take the derivative for instance but they mess up the algebra.

Posted by kris | August 7, 2008 4:31 PM

Without another equation to work with, there is no straightforward way to solve #3 other than just plugging in numbers and hoping you find the answer. Of course, doing so is not mathematics.

From the wording in the question, I'm guessing this is yet another fuck up:

The local recycling plant has just bought a new metal compactor that produces a smaller cube of scrap iron than does the older machine. Somebody noticed, however, that the combined volumes of one cube from each compactor was numerically the same as the combined lengths of all their edges.

That "however" seems out of place unless, perhaps, part of the question is missing.

I'm guessing a sentence was omitted, and I'm guessing that it said something to the effect of "One edge of the new scrap is one half the length of one edge of the old scrap", or "The volume of the old scrap is 8 times larger than the volume of the new scrap".

This would then give you a variable substitution (y=2x or y^3=8x^3), which then makes this an actual high-school math problem and the equation solvable.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 7, 2008 4:32 PM


Oh, I see. Jesus, that question is even worse than I thought. Completely nonsensical.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 7, 2008 4:37 PM

LOL - Yes, the question is as nonsensical as The Stranger's endorsements!

They reject Bergeson because she can't do the math, then prove The Stranger can't do the math, either by endorsing Randy Dorn.

Oh, the irony.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 7, 2008 4:56 PM

David, I fought to endorse you but I got outvoted. I really think someone needs to do something about the Seattle Mafia. Glad we've got you on our side.

Posted by Jonah S | August 7, 2008 5:11 PM

@46 - I'm all for unorthodox campaigns, 3rd parties, etc. However, you come across as a total nut.

Between your Seattle Mafia website, the swastika, and calling the other candidates "whores", you forgot to mention any of your qualifications (you know, why YOU would be a better choice than the other candidates). If you have any skills, communicating is not one of them.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 7, 2008 5:15 PM

The difficulty of reading these questions points out one of the key problems of the math WASL: It is more a test of reading and writing skills than it is of mathematical abilities. By figuring out these problems you are demonstrating your ability to solve word problems, not necessarily your ability to do math. These are great skills to have but they put ELL students at a huge disadvantage.

Posted by R | August 7, 2008 5:21 PM

Dumbass, one of the most obvious features on my campaign website is a little box titled Site LInks, and the very first link listed is "About Me" - which most normal people might recognize as a page one might consult to learn about a candidate's qualifications.

And if that page doesn't answer your questions, it's linked to TWO online biographies. If that still doesn't tell you enough about my qualifications, then EXCUSE ME. Maybe you'd prefer to spend several days trying to figure out what Randy Dorn's qualifications are.

In other words, am I to understand that you're offended by swastikas and the word whore? If so, then I understand completely - you're just another liberal pussy who cares more about protecting Bill Gates than helping the children he exploits. Again, EXCUSE ME.

Finally, why would I be a better choice than the other candidates? Well, if you can't figure that out, then maybe you should do us all a favor and don't vote. Democracy has never benefited from dumbasses.

David Blomstrom
The candidate dumbasses love to hate
Blomstrom vs The Seattle Mafia

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 7, 2008 5:27 PM

What a crappy test. None of the questions have anything to do with anything. What a waste of time. If I was in high school, I'd probably just drop out, rather than take this stupid test.

Posted by m | August 7, 2008 5:33 PM

Awful Awful. I'm a computer scientist at an elite school for engineers and mathematicians, and I couldn't get the third question because it made no sense at all.

My brother got leniency on how schools looked at his tests because of a diagnoses that showed his brain didn't work out problems on standardized tests as well as explaining it to him directly (after which he'd get them). I never really understood it, but reading these pathetically worded problems, he might be just fine...

Posted by Rick | August 7, 2008 5:40 PM

@50 - I'm trying to help you. I want to want to vote for you. But I'm having trouble.

From your About Me, it looks like you have a degree in ecology and you've run for office a bunch of times. I don't see much else there. If there's pertinent information elsewhere on the web, I strongly suggest consolidating it in one place.

On your issues page, you are clearly pissed off. While I agree with many of your sentiments, you don't seem to offer any actual solutions to the problems. Other than identifying whores, what would you do if elected? For example, can you elaborate on "Sound Fiscal Stewardship"? Details please!

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 7, 2008 5:54 PM

"I'm trying to help you."

Yeah, right.

"From your About Me, it looks like you have a degree in ecology and you've run for office a bunch of times. I don't see much else there. If there's pertinent information elsewhere on the web, I strongly suggest consolidating it in one place."

Dude, if you're too lazy to click a link or two, then that's your problem. If you're having a hrd time figuring out what my qualifications are then the other candidates are going to blow your mind - they're virtually faceless.

"On your issues page, you are clearly pissed off. While I agree with many of your sentiments, you don't seem to offer any actual solutions to the problems. Other than identifying whores, what would you do if elected? For example, can you elaborate on "Sound Fiscal Stewardship"? Details please!"

Where do I begin? Paying the latest in a line of derelict Seattle Schools superintendents nearly $300,000 is not sound fiscal stewardship. Nor is paying bad principals to go into retirement. The WASL is yet another waste of money.

The solution begins with merely recognizing and publicizing the problems - problems that no other candidates even mention.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 7, 2008 6:10 PM

@37 Once you interpret the problem correctly, you end up with one equation and two unknowns. So after that, you have no choice but to proceed using trial and error.

@52 (& others) Glad I'm not the only mathematically-minded person who couldn't make sense of the question.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the WASL is more open-ended than the multiple-choice love fests I had to take back in grade school (at least, from looking at that page it's not multiple-choice). But you can't have open-ended interpretations of the problem if you expect a specific outcome.

So I stand by my previous statement...the WASL sucks ass.

Posted by T | August 7, 2008 6:38 PM

Sheesh. That wasn't so bad. #1 is straightforward (though probably tough for 3rd graders), #2 should take less than 10 seconds of thought to figure out they're talking about sides not boxes, #3 takes a bit of time for trial and error but the wording of the question is unambiguous.

I have plenty of problems with standardized tests - mostly that we're creating soul-less institutions void of creativity. But the questions seem fine to me.

Posted by Matt the Engineer | August 7, 2008 7:12 PM

Sheesh. That wasn't so bad. #1 is straightforward (though probably tough for 3rd graders), #2 should take less than 10 seconds of thought to figure out they're talking about sides not boxes, #3 takes a bit of time for trial and error but the wording of the question is unambiguous.

I have plenty of problems with standardized tests - mostly that we're creating soul-less institutions devoid of creativity. But the questions seem fine to me.

Posted by Matt the Engineer | August 7, 2008 7:13 PM

@56: When a math problem makes no sense as written, any attempt to guess what the test-maker intended to write is a waste of time. In the real world you would tell the questioner to try again. Further, "65" is only one of many possible answers. The best (i.e. lowest) answer I and another commenter found was 55. When 0 and 55 are valid answers to the problem as posed, awarding points only to those who picked 65 is arbitrary and meaningless. Worse yet, it rewards pinheads while penalizing those who used their intellects.

Posted by dr. science | August 7, 2008 7:42 PM

Yes, 55 seems to be the most correct answer (how many sides must Penny stamp), and an explanation of this will impress the grader. I'd argue that 0 is a bad answer, as they're clearly talking about sides.

But that's missing the point. Someone who answers 65 or 55 has shown intellegence of the type this question is looking for.

Posted by Matt the Engineer | August 7, 2008 10:59 PM

@49--You hit it on the head--one of the big problems with the math WASL, and math as it is taught in Seattle and much of the state, is that you have to be a flippin' English major to do the work. This hurts ESL students *and* students who are simply better at math than reading.
The funny part on this test is that Bergeson does a very inadequate job, under WASL standards, of showing her work. Even if she got the right answers she would not have been given full credit because she didn't show "comprehension" with a fully picture (preferably labeled), detailed word description and/or number sentences with references. (eg, "25 sides + 25 sides"). By my understanding of the WASL, she had to answer #2 "Penny must stamp 65 sides", or at least write "65 sides"; although that may be just the way it's done in the classroom under TERC math, not a WASL requirement.
And what is up with question 1, anyway? That seems like a puzzle out of Games magazine (ok, an easy one), not a 3rd-grade math problem. Yes, it's a logic puzzle, but could we concentrate on seeing if the 3rd graders can add and subtract? Maybe even multiply?

Anyway, Randy Dorn does seem to understand how pathetically word-heavy and calculation-light the current math is, and would bring about change there, and that alone gets him my vote.

Posted by Fruitbat | August 7, 2008 11:17 PM

"Anyway, Randy Dorn does seem to understand how pathetically word-heavy and calculation-light the current math is, and would bring about change there, and that alone gets him my vote."

Real intelligent choice, Gomer. Randy Dorn tried to get the legislature to fatten his pension, and you think he's on OUR side.

I'll bet you're one of those Seattle liberals who voted for Greg Nickels.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI
(The candidate who discusses the issues)

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 8, 2008 11:24 AM

@61 - David, how would you spend the annual $1+ billion education budget? Details please.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 8, 2008 11:54 AM

@59, you can get it down to 50. The touching sides don't have to be perfectly aligned. Imagine top view, four stacks of five tightly stacked (1-4) and 5 halfway between 2 and 4. Then stacks 1 and 3 have two sides not touching, 5 has 3 side not touching, and 2 and 4 have one side not touching. Then include the tops. (2+2+3+1+1)*5 +5 = 50.

1 2
3 4

Posted by JD | August 8, 2008 1:06 PM

You want the DETAILS when I don't have access to the information Terry Bergeson's office does? NO CANDIDATE can give you those kinds of details.

I would certainly spend more on students than the present administration. The WASL alone diverts millions of dollars from the kids.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 8, 2008 1:09 PM

Saying "integral solution" is absolutely the correct way to specify what question 3 is asking for. If you think it's wrong you didn't study your maths.

Posted by wizzerd | August 8, 2008 2:52 PM
John Taylor Gatto - State Controlled Consciousness
History of compulsory schooling

Dumbing Us Down

Have you ever wondered how our form of compulsory education got setup in the way it is? John Taylor Gatto has. He wrote many essays on the subject, a variety of which were collected into a book entitled: "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education." What follows is a list of quotes from his many essays, which have been posted to the web, arranged in a manner as if Gatto wrote the article himself. After you have read these, look at my follow-on article "On Education: Division of Labor, Divide and Conquer for some more thoughts on this question, culled from the minds of such luminaries as R. Buckminister Fuller, Alfred North Whitehead, Adam Smith, and Noam Chomsky. You will be surprised to find out that Adam Smith, generally accepted as the promulgator of the "division of labor" concept, predicted that a worker placed in such a system, would be rendered "as stupid and ignorant as it is possible to become for a human creature to become." So watch out!

Here now is the concatentated collection of Gatto quotes:

1. From: The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?

"The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon's amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous "Address to the German Nation" which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders.

So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:

1.Obedient soldiers to the army;
2.Obedient workers to the mines;
3.Well subordinated civil servants to government;
4.Well subordinated clerks to industry
5.Citizens who thought alike about major issues. "

2. From: Why Schools Don't Educate

"Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard."

3. From: An Interview with John Taylor Gatto on the Origins of Compulsory Education, in Flatland Magazine #11 © Jim Martin, 9/94.

"....The next step came in 1890, when Andrew Carnegie wrote eleven essays, called The Gospel of Wealth. In it he said that capitalism (free enterprise) was stone cold dead in the United States. It had been killed by its own success. That men like himself, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Rockefeller now owned everything. They owned the government. Competition was impossible unless they allowed it. Which, human nature being what it is, was a problematical thing.

Carnegie said that this was a very dangerous situation, because eventually young people will become aware of this and form clandestine organizations to work against it. Ultimately they'll bring down this edifice. You've got to read all eleven essays, sometimes several times, and only then the majesty of the design emerges. Carnegie proposed that men of wealth re-establish a synthetic free enterprise system (since the real one was no longer possible) based on cradle-to-grave schooling. The people who advanced most successfully in the schooling that was available to everyone would be given licenses to lead profitable lives, they would be given jobs and promotions and that a large part of the economy had to be tied directly to schooling."

4. From: Modern Education and the Mass Marketing of Children

" the seven lessons of school teaching -- confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, surveillance -- all of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And over this time the training has shaken loose from its own original logic: to regulate the poor. For since the 1920s, the growth of the school bureaucracy and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged this institution's original grasp to the point that it now seizes the sons and daughters of the middle class as well. "

5. From: "The Six Lesson Schoolteacher." and The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher

"The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."
"The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch."
"The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command."
"The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study."
"In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth."
"In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched."
"The seventh lesson I teach is that you can't hide."

6. From: "The Curriculum of Necessity or What Must an Educated Person Know?"

A few years back one of the schools at Harvard, perhaps the School of Government, issued some advice to its students on planning a career in the new international economy it believed was arriving. It warned sharply that academic classes and professional credentials would count for less and less when measured against real world training. Ten qualities were offered as essential to successfully adapting to the rapidly changing world of work. See how many of those you think are regularly taught in the schools of your city or state:

1) The ability to define problems without a guide.
2) The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
3) The ability to work in teams without guidance.
4) The ability to work absolutely alone.
5) The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
6) The ability to discuss issues and techniques in public with an eye to reaching decisions about policy.
7) The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
8) The ability to pull what you need quickly from masses of irrelevant data.
9) The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically.
10) The ability to attack problems heuristically.

You might be able to come up with a better list than Harvard did without surrendering any of these fundamental ideas, and yet from where I sit, and I sat around schools for nearly 30 years, I don't think we teach any of these things as a matter of school policy.

And for good reason, schools as we know them couldn't function at all if we did. Can you imagine a school where children challenged prevailing assumptions? Or worked alone without guidance? Or defined their own problems? It would be a radical contradiction of everything we've been conditioned to expect schools to do. If you want your son or daughter to learn what Harvard said was necessary, you'll have to arrange it outside of school time, maybe in between the dentist and the dancing lessons. And if you are poor, you better forget it altogether."

Posted by Jack | August 8, 2008 5:21 PM

By embezzling funds

Posted by cliffblue | August 8, 2008 5:48 PM

David--please, please get back to reality. It seems like I end up sitting next to moonbats like yourself every time I ride the city bus, and that's why I don't any more.

When your campaign is premised on "I'm not a whore!", you've not a campaign. Please say hello to Prophet Atlantis and Mike the Mover at the next Perennial Candidates coffee klatch.

Posted by The Voice of Reason | August 8, 2008 5:50 PM

Voice of Reason: Get a grip. People like you like to highlight goofy candidates like Mike the Mover, whlie excusing themselves. Well, Mike the Mover didn't get Greg Nickels elected. He was elected by many thousands of incredibly stupid people - the same stupid people who have elected Terry Bergeson several times, the dumbasses who have given us a 100% corrupt school board.

It's also significant that the dumb ones are eternally hung up on civilitly. I call a spade a spade, and if that spade happens to be a corrupt politician or union official, I call them a whore - and your feeble little mind just can't stand that.

The reality is I'm the ONLY candidate who's discussing the issues - something that isn't even being discussed on this thread. The #1 problem in education is corporatization, and I'm the only candidate who recognizes that rather obvious fact.

So scr*w you and your fellow dumbasses. I'm in it for the kids, not a bunch of complacent, self-centered civility freaks.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI
and no friend of stupid people

Posted by Dvid Blomstrom | August 8, 2008 7:37 PM

Mr. Blomstrom,
I was reading about you in the voter's pamphlet yesterday; most interesting.
I had never heard of you before. I guess I'm guilty of not paying enough attention.
I honestly don't know if you are right or wrong, but it is pretty clear that you don't have a shot in hell of getting elected. You have alienated everyone on here except for the smart ones who just ignore you. I'm sure you'll attack me too, it's your style. It's unfortunate that your big, offensive mouth will ruin any chance you had of making a difference. It's unfortunate that your delusion of being the only one with any common sense will destroy any hope you had of success. Maybe after the election is lost you can get together with Ralph Nader and console each other. Oh! what could have been accomplished if you didn't force most people to despise you. I would wish you good luck, but it is clear you really just have a fantasy of losing and becoming some sort of martyr.

Posted by It Doesn't Matter | August 9, 2008 12:12 AM

Re: #15 (T):----I am assuming that T is a bright individual who makes a worthwhile contribution as a lawabiding, taxpaying citizen in this here state of Washington, a person who we want & need as a state resident. T is the sort of person the legislature & other WASL policy-makers needs to listen to in testimony before their committees, explaining his or her background & arguing that his or her failure to answer WASL questions has about squat connection to anything really important in the world. There are many kids out there who are improperly being defined as failures in the eyes of Washington state because they can't pass this stupid test.

Posted by richam | August 9, 2008 1:02 AM

It Doesn't Matter (gee, you name could serve as The Stranger's motto) whined, "I honestly don't know if you are right or wrong, but it is pretty clear that you don't have a shot in hell of getting elected."

TRANSLATION: It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong. I'm just another dumbass who's going to support a corrupt candidate who's backed by money and political connections - you know, someone who's going to get (s)elected with or without my vote, like George W. Bush or Greg Nickels.

"You have alienated everyone on here except for the smart ones who just ignore you."

I've alienated half a dozen media whores? Wow, I'm sure that will torpedo my campaign.

"I'm sure you'll attack me too, it's your style."

Gee, you're not wrong about everything after all!

"It's unfortunate that your big, offensive mouth will ruin any chance you had of making a difference."

Well, if my big, offensive mouth blows it, we can always fall back on your tiny pea brain.

"It's unfortunate that your delusion of being the only one with any common sense will destroy any hope you had of success."

DELUSION??? Name ONE candidate besides me who's discussing the issues (other than that perennial campaign favorite, the WASL)?

"Maybe after the election is lost

After the election is lost you can continue gloating with your yuppie friends while Terry Bergeson screws another generation of children.


David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 1:13 AM

(1) I second iflurry's comments about the salaries of these bank employees! There's no way a manager would make less than a cashier, and if there was, that manager is an idiot for working at that bank. The other logical explanation for why Harry makes more than Tom is because Harry is a dishonest employee and is tapping the till.

(2) What the hell?! The question states that there's 25 boxes on the floor and doesn't state whether they're touching. First, forget the math. Who authorized Penny to move or stack the boxes? And if I was going to organize these boxes and I didn't have to stamp the sides that are touching the floor or touching another box, then why not push all 25 together and then just stamp the exposed sides! Now that's efficiency and I deserve to be the employee of the month!

Posted by Really?! | August 9, 2008 1:38 AM

A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling

by John Taylor Gatto
reviewed by Jeremy Solomon

What is wrong with the school system to Gatto is not bad teachers, bad administrators, nor even bad parents.

Rather, it is the design of the institution altogether from inception. Instead of superficially searching for quick fix reforms, Gatto desires to see the system junked altogether.

Gatto sees most schools as prisons of coercion, where students are regulated by a
life of fragmented knowledge, where they
show obedience to strangers, where the design of education is dependency, obedience, regulation and subordination.
Schools make childhood surreal by:

• enforcing sensory deprivation

• sorting children into rigid categories (read: standardized testing)

• training children to stop at the sound of a buzzer

• keeping children under constant surveillance and depriving
them of private time and space

• assigning numbers to children which feigns the ability to
discriminate personal qualities

• insisting that every moment be filled with low level abstractions

• forbidding children to make their own intellectual discoveries

To counter this process his goals for school reforms are as follows:

• teaching needs to be deconstructed - teachers need to be centrally
involved in the development and maintenance of standards and practices,
not just the drones of someone else's blueprints.

• decentralize school systems - no one right way to teach but allow
for other possibilities, such as home schooling.

• developing areas for privacy and solitude in character development
- schools are too big and too concerned with surveillance.

• less policing in schools - trim bureaucracy for more teachers.

• eliminating artificial subject divisions -students should solve real
world problems not abstractions in an interdisciplinary fashion and should
not mimic a Henry Ford assembly line with classes limited to 40 minutes.

Gatto also looks at a corollary issue: why do schools cost so much? Statistics have shown that home schooled students have higher test scores on average than students who go to public schools. Even many high school dropouts do quite well. So why doesn't money generate into better educated students? New York state, for example, spends 51% of its budget on administrative costs. Local administration reduces this to only 25% spent on students. Gatto sees this a "protection money paid to the school ring."

How did this happen on a nation wide scale? Government schooling came to function as a jobs project where "the primary mission of schools and compulsion laws guaranteed an audience no matter how bad the show" (25). Indeed administrators nationally have grown 110% from 1983 to 1991 and increased spending by the federal government has only aggravated the problem rather than solving it.

How did the school system get so bad? Between 1896 and 1920 a small group of industrialists and financiers subsidized university chairs and researchers with the aim of bending schooling to the service of business and the political state. For leading industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie and John T. Rockefeller, public schooling was engineered to serve a modified command economy and an increasingly layered social order. And how best to do this? By copying the Prussian model of public education.

The Prussian way was to train
only a leadership cadre while other students would be taught to fit in their place. Moreover, fear of European immigrants in the 1840s, specifically Catholics, made it essential to leading industrialists and educators to adopt a system based on three Prussian principles:
• The state is sovereign, the only
true parents of children.

• State appointed teachers are
the guardians of children.

• The schoolroom and the
workplace shall be dumbed down
into simplified fragments.

The Prussian systems explains the inordinate interest the foundations of Carnegie and Rockefeller took in shaping early public schooling around compulsory education, which to Gatto, has been from the beginning a scheme of indoctrination designed to create a harmless proletariat held hostage by its addiction to luxury and security.

The Prussian school system relied heavily on the French philosopher August Comté who argued that one could create a useful proletariat by breaking connections between children and their families, their communities, their God and themselves. Rather than family enterprise and individual effort as the main agencies of personal definition, state institutions would do this better with an army of specialists.
So if the present school system is so awful, how can it be reformed? Gatto argues that there is no one way to teach, that schooling should be what the parents, community and even the children want it to be, an experiment not codified by the state. Rather than have standards set by politicians or administrators, schools should survive the market place, much like a business, with plenty of competition. Before the "Progressive" era of mid 19th century compulsory education laws there was great diversity and autonomy in education rather than one best system which was forced on everyone. Though not a proponent of vouchers, Gatto believes that a portion of school taxes should be given back to parents so they could shop around for better options than public education has to offer.

For schools to be worthwhile they need to have worthwhile goals such as:

• creating independent, resourceful and fearless citizens

• tapping the educational power of family life

• bestowing significance on personal choices

• arresting the epidemic of alienation and loneliness

• restoring democracy as a natural mission

• reversing the growing isolation of social classes

• regenerating community life

Gatto believes schools can pursue these goals and still teach reading writing and arithmetic.

Gatto, J. (2000) A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, Berkeley Hills Books; ISBN: 1893163210


Posted by Caring About children | August 9, 2008 2:23 AM

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Reviewed by Kah Ying Choo

This book by Alfie Kohn strikes at the heart of the conventional rewards system that is entrenched in our schools and our society.

Although rewards require little effort to administer and yield immediate results, they do not address the underlying problems that will remain unresolved in the long run. Kohn identifies five key problems with the use of rewards:

• The rewards system is basically used as a controlling tool to elicit desirable behavior. Students who feel that their teachers control them will not develop a natural incentive to study.

• The rewards system intensifies the imbalance of power, and thus increases the distance between teachers and students. Knowing that their teachers are always judging their work will generate feelings of anxiety and stress, thus lowering the quality of their performance.

• The use of the rewards system does not address the underlying causes of the problem.

• The rewards system undermines creativity and innovation by rewarding individuals who conform to expected standards of behavior.

• Ultimately, the rewards system destroys people's enjoyment of activities and replaces intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation. Essentially, when people are intrinsically motivated to perform tasks, they do not need to be given a reward for doing so.

According to Kohn, even praise may have a negative impact on children's performances. Fundamentally, praise cultivates the children's dependency on the opinions of others. Children who are overpraised perform in order to please their parents or other adult figures. In the long run, they lose their sense of identity and intrinsic motivation for performing activities they once enjoyed.
In contrast to the tacit control imposed by the rewards system, the three Cs - content, collaboration and choice - provide alternative guidelines for dealing with non-compliance of children. First, educators and other adults must consider whether the content is developmentally appropriate. Such content should meet the needs and

interests of the children. Second, collaboration should be encouraged, thereby empowering children, and encouraging their involvement in the learning experience. Finally, choice is a component that enables children to take part in the decision-making process.
Ultimately, Kohn has painted a powerful vision of children who will grow up to become responsible and intrinsically motivated adults. Their self-image will not be dependent on rewards and praises from authority figures. Rather, they will possess the passion and strength necessary for their vocation in life. This future, however, can only be realized if the current rewards system is replaced by an alternative perspective that truly nurtures the growth of young children.

Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Posted by Caring About children | August 9, 2008 2:26 AM

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom
by Mary Griffith

Reviewed by Rebecca Uchill

Mary Griffith surveys unschooling
families and compiles their responses. She reports on the theories behind and implications of Unschooling, and provides suggestions for general concerns and specific academic subjects:
Present-day Americans have difficulty imagining education that does not resemble school. But until the 1850’s “common school” movement,

school was mostly optional. Most knowledge children needed to become competent adults was acquired through doing tasks along with adults and knowing that this work was essential to their livelihood. Along with the establishment of public schools and compulsory attendance laws came a general belief that school was essential for children to become modern-day citizens. There was little discussion about whether school was indeed an indispensable institution.
In the 1970’s, educator John Holt used the term “unschooling” to describe the act of homeschooling. The term now refers to the specific style of child-centered learning advocated by Holt. Today this method occupies between ten and fifty percent of the homeschooling movement.

Unschooling in Practice:

Unschooling is an informal approach to education based on the premise that people who make their own decisions perform more competently than those whose behavior is controlled or judged by others. Unschoolers take issue with conventional education: If you take responsibility away from children, they have no stake in the outcome and learn to follow orders over problem-solving. How is one neat package of information the authoritative “education?" School puts parents in conflict with teachers. Unschooling is easier for parents because they need not plan lessons or grade tests but more difficult in that learning is ever-present and collaborative.

Unschoolers are curious and natural learners at any time or in any setting. They know people acquire skills at different paces and ages. They are interested in and tolerant of a wide variety of people. They are confident. They are critical thinkers.

When deciding whether to practice unschooling, weigh practical considerations such as legal, financial, and scheduling issues.


Everything your children interfaces with is an implement for their learning. Supply books that respond to the children’s interests, not textbooks, but “real” books written by and for people with an interest in the subject. Help them learn to search for those books, this will help them to think and read critically. Gardening, game playing, working with art supplies, and music are all good resources; it is not important to spend a lot of money or buy “kits”.

Technology can be a part of unschooling in the forms of television, computer and internet. Just because a TV program or computer software is not designated as “educational” does not mean that it offers no potential for learning.

Your child may need an outside instructor to teach a subject that you are unfamiliar with. Unschooled children may adapt well to courses where instruction is “sequenced to develop physical skills” such as with ballet or martial arts. They may not enjoy group lessons which require strict or product-oriented curricula, where other children are uninterested, and may be frustrated by inattention or misbehavior of less focused students. If you choose a private tutor, allow your child to be involved with the selection process.

Comparisons with “Schooled” Peers:

Both parents and children worry about “keeping up” with schooled peers. Remind them that schools teach different topics at different grades and encourage unnecessary competition and verification of learning through testing. Unschoolers can keep records other than or in addition to those required by states law in the form of grids, journals, portfolios, or informal transcripts. Not many unschoolers use tests as a way of measuring ability.

Kids might want to try going to school; sometimes an experimental week in a classroom satisfies their curiosity. If they choose to attend school full time, the family may need to adjust. Unschoolers who go to school tend to do well because they want to learn, it was their choice to attend, and they are aware school is not their only option.


Children will learn to read if allowed to do so at their own pace and in the way which works best for them. Read to your children to set the example and garner enthusiasm for reading. Children will learn to write along with learning to read and development of fine motor skills. Many parents downplay concerns about

penmanship in exchange for encouraging content by becoming scribes or using the computer as a tool. Projects or email can promote writing skills.

Math can be taught through cooking, money, games, books. Often unschoolers with no formal training in math acquire mathematics through real world applications or can catch up with formally instructed peers easily. You do not need to keep up with your child in math, she is the one doing the learning.


Science is a “matter of attitude.” It involves observation, prediction and experimentation. Studies of nature or toys like pulleys, magnifying glasses, or binoculars are all ways for unschoolers to explore science. Older teens who desire a more formal “lab science” equivalent might want a textbook or mentor.


History need not be learned in chronological order or require memorization of dates and names. Maps and timelines can assist in teaching non-chronological history. Books, movies, family genealogy, environmental living programs and travel can all be vehicles to exploring history.


In a traditional school’s once a week regimen, focus on product, neatness, and “talent” in the arts can subdue the enthusiasm of children. Unschoolers tend to continue with enjoyed activities beyond a traditional school age. Because they are unaccustomed to “prescriptive” instruction, they may have an easier time experimenting or purely enjoying their informal arts activities. Most children prefer professional supplies to children’s kits. Some may desire formal instruction at a certain point. If so, talk with your children about lessons first - what are their objectives? Would they like reminders to practice?

Unschooling as a Lifestyle:

Unschooling is a way of life that has many advantages over
conventional schooling. It tailors learning to the needs of children and families. Unschooled children are more in touch with themselves and have a fire to learn that can otherwise be vanquished in school. Unschooling can reweave family and community. It does not arbitrarily categorize areas or levels of learning. It empowers its practitioners in their own uniqueness and so encourages tolerance of all uniqueness. It encourages the pursuit of passions and joy. A full society of unschoolers would be a better society.

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffith. 1998, Prima Publishing, Rosewood California.

Posted by Caring About children | August 9, 2008 2:28 AM

I beleive Washington State needs Sudbury schools

get rid of the WASL and all state "standardized tests"

Infact....why not get rid of Compulsory schooling all together? Sudbury and Unschooling are the only real and best ways of educating children.

~Sudbury mom.

Posted by Sudbury Mom | August 9, 2008 3:28 AM

Many of the early posters responding to this blog missed the point. It wasn't a question of whether it was formatted right or if you can find the answer....IT WAS all about Bergeson who constantly defends her WASL and her (what, 40 yrs in education) That was not able to completely answer 3 questions from her own dreaded test.

The same test we are shoving down the throat of the children in this state.

How pathetic that this is even still a discussion after all these years and that she isn't long gone already.

People need to wake up and start the public outcry I've been hoping for, for many years already..... please say ENOUGH ALREADY.

Vote for Randy Dorn !!

Posted by Notta_Clue | August 9, 2008 5:52 AM

Vote for Randy Dorn??? Dude, are you one of those morons who voted for Greg Nickels, too?

For crying out loud, Dorn tried to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation to fatten pensions for just TWO people - Randy Dorn and a fellow union lobbyist. If that kind of naked greed doesn't bother you, then you need to butt out of politics.

In other news, Dorn is part of the team that gave us the WASL - which Dorn now claims to dislike. Great timing, just before the election, eh?

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 6:36 AM

I may have missed it if someone already made this comment. Everyone needs to vote for any one of the alternate candidates in the primary. If they wait for the general election to see who the second candidate is, they may miss out entirely. If Bergeson gets over 50% of the votes in the primary, she goes unopposed to the general. It doesn't matter if the vote for the alternate candidates is all split up, as long as no one candidate gets over 50%. And Bergeson has a chance of doing that because of name recognition. Of the alternate candidates, Randy Dorn is the leader, so he probably has the best chance at knocking Bergeson out in the general, BUT only if she doesn't knock every one else out in the primary.

Posted by ac | August 9, 2008 10:33 AM

Uh, Randy Dorn isn't an alternate candidate. He's Terry Bergeson's clone.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 12:03 PM

Blomstrom is right. Dorn isn't the only candidate--there is also ENID DUNCAN!!

Go to and read her history and plans for education! Enid Duncan is a City Council Member for the City of Edgewood. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and has worked extensively with students with learning disabilities. Enid is a CEO and co-owner of a successful small business in Pierce County. She and her husband, Edward, have raised three children who have attended their local public schools. Enid is running because she sees a need for change at the state superintendent’s office. She feels a strong commitment to serve children, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Washington.

She is also a parent of an extremely dyslexic child who was constantly being misdiagnosed as severely mentally challenged until he finally received the help he needed in Florida (

I have a question for Mr. Blomstrom: Why do you not attend the electoral forums? If you want to win, then you need to start telling parents and students how YOU would repair the education of our children in the state of Washington!! Not keep spouting off about the Seattle Mafia!

Out of the candidates who are running, Enid Duncan is the BEST CHOICE for Superintendent of Public Instruction!!

Vote for Enid Duncan!

Posted by Julie | August 9, 2008 7:02 PM

Enid Duncan and Don Hansler are the two lamest candidates. However, lame is better than corrupt, so your post suggests you're a little smarter than all the idiots promoting Randy Dorn.

Why don't I attend forums? Because they're a joke, that's why. Like everything else in this state, they're manipulated by corporate interests. I've seen forums with official corporate sponsors.

Forums are very poorly attended anyway. Most forums I attended in the past drew a few dozen people - and many of those were somehow related to the candidates. But there's a page on my campaign website that discusses this "issue" in more detail.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 7:09 PM

Lying bitch.

I'd like to break her glasses that she "forgot" and shove them up her stupid ass.

Here's a question for Bergeson:
If everyone at my highschool kicked her in the teeth 6 times.
Had Jet Li karate chop her in her nasty bits >100 times.
And force fed her all the shit that is excreted by each congressman who supports the WASL...

How long would her stupid ass be in the hospital for?


Posted by Taylor :) | August 9, 2008 8:15 PM

David Blomstrom --please, please, please see reality.

Your campaign is based on "I'm not a whore!" Come on reality is just around the corner. The Seattle Mafia is coming to throw the net over you.

You come across as a freakin idiot!

Posted by WASLhater | August 9, 2008 8:34 PM

WASLHater moaned, "David Blomstrom --please, please, please see reality.

"Your campaign is based on 'I'm not a whore!'"

Actually, my campaign is based on a lot of things, including more issues than all the other candidates combined discuss.

"You come across as a freakin idiot!"

Actually, you sound like the idiot. At least you're smart enough to post anonymously, even if it is a little gutless.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 8:56 PM

As a former high school teacher who unhappily proctored the WASL since its inception for equally unhappy sophomore victims, I must say that the questions above are a reasonably accurate representation of the majority of WASL questions. My first reaction when reading these questions was similar to that of the brighter students, who typically would say, "Who cares? Why should I expend my time and energy to figure out an answer to a stupid, trivial question? How does this question specifically test the subject matter I have learned in my classes?" Also, some of the comments here reflect another problem afflicting the brighter students. They typically think of more ramifications and questionable implications in a typical WASL question than do the average students, who tend to take the question at face value in a more literal sense. Thus the more intelligent students are penalized by their ability to see a multitude of possibilities with consequent futility in trying to arrive at one, absolutely correct answer when the question may have given nebulous or insufficient information on which to base a conclusion. I could go on and on about the inadequacy of the WASL, inadequacy in which I believe so strongly that I left the teaching profession primarily because of the stranglehold the WASL has on Washington education. In that last year I was doing very little teaching as I had formerly taught in the pre-WASL era. The WASL made impossible the quality of teaching I had achieved in the past before I was required to teach to the test. Instead, I was promoting the WASL by assigning reams of required, mind-numbing WASL preparation worksheets. The WASL epitomizes all that is currently wrong with American education. I no longer have to care about the WASL as a teacher, thank God, but I still care deeply as I have always cared about the students who are being victimized by the WASL and about the decline in quality education represented and accelerated by the WASL.

Posted by Mary | August 9, 2008 10:29 PM

Thank you for interrupting your retirement to tell us how much you hate the WASL, "Mary."

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI
who was blasting the "Education Mafia" even before the Seattle School District laid him off (after the school board lost over $30 million - a reminder that there are other issues besides the WASL)

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 9, 2008 10:55 PM

I guess the good news is, there is a future for our children. They can fail the WASL and still aspire to be State Superintendant of Washington Schools........

Posted by tg | August 10, 2008 11:47 AM

don't feed the blomstrom.

blomstrom is a troll.

Posted by mkone | August 10, 2008 2:24 PM

No, trolls post under phony names or pseudonyms, like "mkone." Trolls say stupid things - like mkone.

David Blomstrom
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 10, 2008 3:21 PM

AS somebody who has taken the WASL and failed the math, twice, by two points... It's stupid. it actually wouldn't be that bad if the questions were worded normal. Most students disagree with the WASL, but since we have to take four parts and pass three to graduate, teachers will teach to only the WASL.

Posted by Aly | August 11, 2008 10:44 AM

I've always opposed the WASL. This makes me very happy indeed.

Posted by Rachel D. | August 11, 2008 10:56 AM

I've always opposed the WASL. This makes me very happy indeed.

Posted by Rachel D. | August 11, 2008 10:56 AM

what page is this article located on.. work cited page needed..

physical copy..

Posted by student | August 11, 2008 3:14 PM

Hmm. I can't seem to get number 3 right away. Oh right, I forgot my glasses. My glasses make me smarter. *puts them on* Ah, there we go! I can feel my IQ increase enough to pass the WASL!

The questions are written horribly and do need a serious overhaul.

Posted by Jon | August 12, 2008 1:48 PM

Well, while you're overhauling the WASL questions that so fascinate The Stranger's mostly anonymous fan club, I'll Terry Bergeson. The WASL should be eliminated - so we can finally move on to the bigger issues The Stranger and other corporate media consistently ignore.

[b][i]David Blomstrom[/i][/b]
Candidate for SPI

Posted by David Blomstrom | August 12, 2008 5:28 PM

Fnarf obviously has never had the joy of teaching creative, resourceful, thoughful, reflective, out-of-the-box children who have not been molded by our domestication process. Don't worry about Boeing Fnarf. I know what you mean. My dad worked there and for some of us the best part of achieving an education has been never to have become another cog in the wheel or just a robot in some factory.

Posted by elwood | August 12, 2008 6:46 PM

This is exactly why filling in the bubbles on those high stakes tests don't work.

One of the students I mentor is taking an online course in Algebra I, because she received a C and her high school will not accept C's in order to graduate. Well. the school suggested that she might want to enroll for an online course in Algebra I.

The unit questions require filling in the bubbles. I had my husband, the mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and principle engineer who develops original math algorithms for data reduction and celestial navigation systems, read the test items and the answers, and he fell down laughing at both. Many questions were cryptic and poorly written and the answers listed were to put it lightly strange. Nevertheless, she did the best she could given the situation.

By the way, I give this student a lot of credit for showing persistence in the face of lunacy.

NCLB has reduced assessing learning to the results from a single high stakes test score. Then according to these test scores, schools, teachers, and schools are ranked, categorized, and labeled. Something is wrong with this kind of use of high stakes test scores. But, I guess the standardistos, politicos and business folks who really don't have any business meddling in education and micro managing teachers matter, because hoards of money are being made by the Halliburtons of education.

In the meanwhile, students, teachers, and parents are being extorted. Isn't extortion against the law?

I am a professional educator who has taught all grades K-12 (inclusive) in 5 different states in every imaginable and unimaginable situation, have taught all levels at the college - undergrads, post-bac, master's and doctoral degree programs, and I have never come across such lunacy as NCLB.

Great article! Let's have more standardistos, politicos, and business folks take the tests and then we can rank, sort, and categorize them.

I have a dream - students, teachers, and parents should protest on high stakes testing days and also on those endless test prep days. What a waste of time and money when real learning engagements could be going on in classrooms.

Follow the money folks!

Posted by Yvonne Siu-Runyan | August 13, 2008 1:53 PM

As both a parent and as someone who works for one of the large school districts in the state (not Seattle) I have to say there's way more wrong with the education system than just the WASL and it comes all the way from the top down.

The WASL, or any standardized testing for that matter, is a cookie-cutter measure of a student's intelligence. Not all students are good in math, science and reading but that doesn't mean they are unintelligent by any stretch of the definition. The emphasis they put on the standardized testing is horrifying to me as a parent, especially when my teenager started stressing over passing the test about eighth grade and ended up having to take anti-anxiety medication to get through the actual testing thanks to her already existing test anxiety and the pressure of having to pass in order to graduate. Which brings up another thought regarding the stupidity of the current situation…does OSPI really think that a student who met all their credits but didn’t pass their WASL will stay in school past their graduation date for the sole purpose of re-taking the stupid test???? Please tell me they aren’t that ignorant! Especially when colleges don’t look at that score for any purpose!

It all boils down to funding. Working in the capacity I do, I’m sorry to say that the state and federal government have made our children in the public school system nothing more than dollar signs. They put these ridiculous NCLB standards up and hold any money hostage until the school districts comply. They’ve created a mass of paperwork for teachers to the point they can’t teach, they’ve increased class sizes and decreased budgeting causing cuts in para-educators who these teachers then rely on to help. If a school doesn’t meet AYP (i.e. meeting WASL scores) for two years, they are forced to allow parents to move their children to other schools in the district that have met AYP thus placing a strain on an already thin transportation budget thanks to the price of gas. Funding is pulled, staff is cut, classrooms get larger and the kids suffer. It’s all in the numbers, sadly.

I can’t say that Randy Dorn has impressed me as a union representative, but I distrust any sort of Politian so he’s really the lesser of the several evils. At this point, anything to get the current superintendant out would be a good choice. It may not get much better, but I’d hope it couldn’t get much worse. Fortunately, I only have one year left in a public school setting for my daughter and my son will not see the inside of a public school again. I don’t care if I have to beg, borrow or steal to keep him out either. I figure he’s getting a far better education in a private school than he would in a public school having to battle NCLB.

Posted by SarcasticMom | August 14, 2008 9:07 PM

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