Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HB 2538, WaKids; testimony in support

To: Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee
Re: WaKids, HB 2538

Dear Chairwoman McAuliffe and committee members,

I wanted to follow up on my testimony in support of HB 2538, which moves up implementation of WaKids’ inventory of skills. Washington State PTA continues to support WaKids and looks forward to statewide implementation.

With WaKids the focus is on understanding each student’s particular needs and using that information to build strong relationships with the family so that, together, family and educator can better support the child.

It’s a different dynamic and it is a cultural shift. But it holds tremendous promise and is well worth working out implementation details. It also nicely aligns with several of the new evaluation criteria:
  • Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs
  • Using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning
  • Communicating and collaborating with parents and school community
Ultimately, WaKids gives teachers a valuable tool.

Our support, though, is fueled by the benefit to kids, particularly the screening for phonological awareness, which is an important and reliable predictor of later reading ability. As you pointed out, Senator McAuliffe, the state does have a “second grade reading test” to assess accuracy and fluency.  Districts use different tests. Seattle Public Schools uses the DRA; others use Dibels and some reading teachers opt for the MASI. But this screening doesn’t come early enough and in second grade it flags students after the fact. The WaKids screening identifies issues before they become problems.

It might help to think of WaKids screening as you would medical screening. In early well-child visits the doctor looks for key physical development. If something appears off, she can flag it and work with the parents to immediately address or head off a future medical issue.

As I said, WaKids is a shift and certainly requires thoughtful implementation. But it is a positive and powerful change for learners and it aligns with the new teaching criteria developed by educators here in Washington.


Ramona Hattendorf
Government relations coordinator
Washington State PTA


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