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State tests required for graduation

WA Capitol and Mount RainierWashington requires students to pass state specific exit exams, or state-approved alternatives, to be eligible to earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) or high school diploma. High stakes tests are a graduation requirement in about half of the United States. WEA has always vigorously opposed requiring proficiency on a high stakes test for graduation purposes.

Students must pass the state and federally required ELA, math & science high school assessments in order to be eligible to graduate. The transition to the Smarter Balanced Assessment starting in 2015 means that for the next few years, the tests required are dependent on a student’s year of graduation.

For students who fail to achieve a minimum score, as adopted by the State Board of Education, on the state test, they are eligible to pursue alternative routes to graduation. Students who do not take the state assessment may not access these alternative routes. OSPI provides comprehensive and current information on tests required for graduation as well as alternative routes to graduation.


Other state mandated tests

In addition to the tests required for graduation at the high school, and the tests administered in grades 3-8 for federal accountability, the state mandated tests include OSPI developed assessments in other content areas, the second grade reading assessment, and WA-KIDs for full-day Kindergarten funded by the state. For a detailed explanation of state testing requirements, please refer to OSPI’s site.


The history of state testing requirements

Washington State’s assessment system got its start with the Education Reform Law of 1993, which created the Commission on Student Learning. The Commission was charged with developing the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and an assessment system to measure student progress. From spring 1997 through summer 2009, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) served as the assessment system. By decision of the State Board of Education, from 2006 through 2009, the WASL also served as a graduation requirement. 

In 2010, Washington State replaced by the WASL with the Measurements of Students Progress (MSP) for grades 3-8 and the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) for high school. Starting in spring 2015, Washington transitioned to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a Common Core aligned assessment and began phasing out the MSP and HSPE. The SBA fulfills both federal and state requirements for annual testing.


Have more testing questions?

Please contact Sally McNair with questions about state testing requirements.