April 18, 2007 in Opinion

Outside view: Making WASL work

Everett Herald The Spokesman-Review
 

The following editorial appeared Sunday in the Everett Herald.

A retreat from education standards the state has spent 15 years building is being sounded again as the Legislature enters its final week. It threatens to leave many of our high school graduates ill-prepared to keep up in an increasingly complex world.

Gov. Chris Gregoire should put an end to it now by stating clearly and unequivocally that she’ll veto any bill that delays next year’s high school graduation requirements in reading and writing.

Such delays are getting some traction, despite the fabulous progress students have made in meeting reading and writing standards. There’s already wide support for delaying the math requirement, a view we share, because some 42 percent of high school juniors haven’t yet passed it. In math, it’s clear the system hasn’t provided the tools students need to succeed.

That’s not the case in reading and writing, where passing rates have climbed into the mid-80s, with extra help and more retakes available to those who haven’t passed. Of that group, another 10 percent to 12 percent of students are close to passing.

Yet Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell), who chairs the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, says she won’t support delaying the graduation requirement in math if reading and writing aren’t put off, too. She says it’s a matter of fairness, that students who struggle in reading or writing, many of whom are from low-income households, shouldn’t be treated differently than those who haven’t made the grade in math.

Around 40 school districts in the state have called for delaying the reading and writing graduation requirement, currently scheduled to begin with next year’s seniors. We think they and McAuliffe are selling students short.

Passing rates are high in Everett and Edmonds. Among the roughly 1,350 current 11th graders who had taken the WASL in the Everett School District through last spring, just 69 weren’t close to passing in reading, and only 61 weren’t close in writing. Taken together, the percentage of students who had passed or were close to passing (scoring one level below the passing mark) was about 95 percent in reading and in writing. Percentages in Edmonds are similar.

Delaying the graduation requirement isn’t justified in reading and writing. In fact, keeping it in place is key to ensuring students who are close to making the grade keep working to get there.

No bill at all would be preferable to a bad bill. If lawmakers can’t approve a delay in the math requirement without leaving reading and writing alone, the governor must be ready with her veto pen. There will still be time to deal with the math requirement next session.


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