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Bill to remove tests as a graduation barrier heads for a Senate vote

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Educators from WEA Fourth Corner lobbied in Olympia against high-stakes testing.

After passing the state House of Representatives in March, legislation to remove standardized tests as a barrier to high school graduation could be voted on in the Senate soon.

Currently, high school students must pass standardized tests in math and English/language arts to earn their diplomas. (A science test is scheduled to become a graduation requirement in 2021.)

Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1599 provides multiple alternatives to passing those tests. The tests currently are a barrier to graduation for thousands of students every year.

Instead of mandating that students pass the tests to graduate, the bill provides additional pathway options for students. See the list of pathways below.*

Students would still be required to take the tests for federal and state accountability purposes, and passing the existing tests would be one of the pathways students could choose. They’d also still be required to meet the state’s new 24 credit graduation standard and complete a High School and Beyond Plan.

Removing high-stakes standardized tests as a barrier to graduation has been a top priority for WEA members for years. WEA strongly supported different legislation (HB 1089) that removed the tests as a graduation requirement entirely without adding pathway requirements, but that bill stalled.

Washington is one of only 12 states that require students to pass such tests to earn their diploma.

Here’s the official summary of the current bill:

  • Removes testing requirements for high school graduation.
  • Removes requirement that students receive a certificate of academic achievement to graduate, beginning with the class of 2020.
  • Modifies provisions relating to high school and beyond plans.
  • Replaces certain graduation requirements with pathway framework.
  • Extends, through the class of 2020, an expedited appeal process for waiving assessment requirements.
  • Directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to contract with a vendor to implement a statewide online platform for high school and beyond plans.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to convene a work group on mastery-based learning.

It passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee April 9 and is expected to go to a vote of the full Senate soon. In the House, an earlier version of HB 1599 passed on a strong bipartisan vote of 91 to 4. WEA succeeded in getting the bill amended so that it now includes a data-based review of the pathways. If the Senate approves it, the amended bill will go back to the House for approval.

*Here are the pathways to graduation called for by HB 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.”

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