Op-Ed: Washington state robbing kids of most important rite of passage

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-32
Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, issued the following statement as more than 15,000 high school seniors will fail to graduate because of not passing one or more statewide high stakes tests:

“While budget negotiators in Olympia continue to receive 30-day extensions to complete their work; more than 15,000 high school seniors in our state are simply out of time. For many, graduation day has already come and gone. There is no going back.

“When did petty political gamesmanship become more important than truly making a difference for thousands of young Washingtonians? Our state cannot rob our kids of one of the most important rites of passage.

“For 81 percent of our state’s public high school graduating seniors, high stakes testing is not an issue. These students passed all three state required tests for graduation: English Language Arts, Math, and Biology. However, for the 15,645 students that failed one or more of these tests, this is an issue. Particularly, special education students, English language learners, low-income, and students of color are disproportionately impacted by the requirement to pass high stakes tests to graduate. Over 10 years of high stakes testing research and experience in our state shows that instead of positive outcomes, we have an achievement gap that grows wider each year. The state does not require private schools to administer these tests as a requirement for graduation.

“The House of Representatives has voted on a bipartisan bill to completely delink high stakes test results from graduation requirements three times this year. Unfortunately, when it is the Senate Republican Majority’s turn to act they push for only delinking the biology exam, thereby ignoring the bulk of the students who are penalized by these tests. I view this lack of action as a failure of leadership and of governance.

“One of my young constituents contacted me with a desperate plea after failing the English exam by one point. Only one point stands between this student and their high school diploma. High school graduation is the touchpoint by which you measure your life. We ought to show our high school seniors that state government can be an instrument of good and change lives for the better.

“The quality of our students’ education is more important than test results. Scholars and researchers recognize that the Smarter Balanced assessments were not designed to assess whether a student should be advanced to another grade level or if a student has demonstrated the competencies to graduate from high school. In short, by continuing to require passage of all three high stakes tests we are perpetuating a highly flawed system.

“Washington state is currently on the wrong side of history on this issue, as one of thirteen states, down from 27, across the United States with high stakes tests in place for the graduating class of 2017. Increasingly, offices of college admissions recognize that a student’s high school record is a more accurate prediction of success in higher education than a standardized test. By making standardized tests optional at the college level, schools are able to obtain more diversity without any loss in academic quality. It is a ‘win-win’ for both students and schools.

“I believe that our students should be accountable for their education; however, that accountability must not rob them of their future, or one of life’s precious milestones. These kids’ hearts are breaking.”

Sen. Chase represents the 32nd legislative district in the Washington state legislature. The 32nd includes Shoreline, Woodway, parts of Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and northwest Seattle.


Anonymous,  June 7, 2017 at 10:27 AM  

Hear hear! Bless you - we next need to address why teachers pass students along who aren't mastering the material at grade level (+ or - one or two levels).

Nanook June 7, 2017 at 10:47 PM  

Getting a diploma when you don't know the subject matter just makes the diplomas worthless. They can learn the materials and get a GED, or what used to be an option (don't know if it still is) though few students availed themselves of it, was to go to high school a fourth year, in effect flunk the 12th grade, and get a diploma the following year.

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