Agreement reached on testing requirements for high school graduation

Students in the high school graduating class of 2017 who did not pass state-required standardized assessments will be able to get their diploma if a new bill announced today is approved by the full Legislature. The compromise plan comes after education leaders in the state House of Representatives and Senate worked with the Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, to update the use of assessments required for graduation.

Currently, students must pass state tests in math, English language arts and science in order to graduate. English language arts and math are currently tested in the 11th grade. Under the new agreement, students would complete these exams in 10th grade beginning in 2019.

“It’s critical that our schools prepare students for whatever path they take after high school whether it be college, the workforce or other training,” said Sen. Joe Fain, who serves as Majority Floor Leader and as vice-chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “By working together we’ve agreed on a way to maintain academic rigor and objective educational standards, while giving teachers more flexibility and students more paths to learn and show what they know.”

Use of the state’s biology assessment as a graduation requirement, which measures proficiency in science, would be delayed until the graduating class of 2021 when a more comprehensive science exam is expected. Students will still be required to pass the math and English language arts exams, but would have additional opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.

“I am grateful for the bipartisan effort that brought resolution to this issue,” said Reykdal. “Every student deserves a powerful pathway to post-secondary work and learning. With this bipartisan bill, we are making a very positive leap for our public education system.”

The new policy would also update the process available to students to pass an alternative assessment, which may include completing courses that have been accepted as “transition” or “dual credit” by Washington’s higher education institutions, or passage of a locally administered test. Local tests, which would need to be certified by OSPI, would provide additional flexibility for students and teachers to identify problem areas and quickly develop plans to help students demonstrate proficiency.

Lawmakers also proposed an expedited appeals process for students in the graduating classes of 2014 through 2018 who have not met standards on math and English language arts.

It’s expected that both chambers could take up the legislation next week. While many high school graduation ceremonies have already occurred, the plan would apply retroactively to the class of 2017.