State tests NO LONGER required for graduation

Beginning in 2020, Washington high school students will no longer be required to pass English/language arts, math and science tests to graduate. Instead, they will have other pathways to graduation.

Under a new law passed in 2019, students will have at least 10 pathways to earning a diploma (passing the existing state tests will be one of the options). Until this year, state law required most students to take and fail the standardized tests before being provided alternatives.

WEA successfully lobbied to include a review of the pathways to determine how they affect students and whether they are working as intended.

Here are the pathways to graduation called for by House Bill 1599, according to the official bill report:

“Beginning with the class of 2020 and in addition to local graduation requirements and those set by the State Board of Education (SBE), students must complete a High School and Beyond Plan, earn required credits towards graduation, and successfully complete one or more pathways in order to earn a high school diploma. These pathways include:

  • Meet or exceed the graduation standard established by the SBE on the statewide high school assessments in ELA and mathematics
  • Complete and qualify for college credit in dual credit courses in ELA and mathematics
  • Earn high school credit in a high school transition course that meets specific requirements in ELA and mathematics
  • Earn high school credit, with a C+ grade or equivalent, in specified Advanced Placement, International Bacculaureate, or Cambridge international courses in ELA and mathematics
  • Meet or exceed the scores established by the SBE for the mathematics portion and the reading, English, or writing portion of the SAT or ACT
  • Meet any combination of at least one ELA option and at least one mathematics option established in the previous bullets
  • Meet standards in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
  • Complete a sequence of career and technical education courses, including those leading to workforce entry, state or nationally approved apprenticeships, or postsecondary education, that meet specific criteria.
  • Pass AP exams with a score of 3 or higher as a graduation pathway option to demonstrate career and college readiness
  • Pass International baccalaureate exams with a score of 4 or higher as a graduation pathway option to demonstrate career and college readiness

“School districts are encouraged to make all graduation pathway options available to their students, and to expand their list of options until all are offered, but districts are granted discretion in determining which options they offer to students. In addition, the SBE is directed to adopt rules to implement the graduation pathway options.”

Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1599 passed the Senate and the House with strong bipartisan support.

Rep. Monica Stonier of Vancouver is the bill’s prime sponsor. She’s an educator and member of the Evergreen Education Association and WEA.

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.

Local requirements

Staff, students and families should consult with their local district to determine what district or building required assessments are administered. Locally determined assessments may be used to measure student growth at the classroom level or could be utilized to help determine eligibility for school or district programs.

WEA members know that teacher-driven, classroom based assessments provide some of the strongest data about student growth. Districts should include teachers and other education professionals in determining what, if any, assessments shall be administered at the district or building level.

Have more testing questions?

Please contact Sally McNair with questions about state testing requirements.