June 12, 2009 in City

Statewide testing still in limbo

Superintendent Dorn says current requisites are unfit
Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
 

SEATTLE – State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn wants another delay in the math and science requirements for high school graduation.

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is revamping statewide testing to create a replacement for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, and the new high school tests won’t be used statewide until 2012.

But Dorn said Thursday that the current graduation requirement for high school students to pass statewide math and science tests by 2013 is neither realistic nor fair.

The state is drawing up learning standards for math and science to specify what high school graduates should know in those subjects, but the math learning standards won’t be adopted until 2011 and the science standards until 2012. The class of 2013 won’t have enough time to master those new standards before being tested, Dorn said. “I’m not backing away from the graduation requirements; but we need to give teachers and students additional time with the new math and science standards before students can be expected to have a fair chance to pass the tests,” Dorn said in a statement.

Dorn said he plans to ask the Legislature to delay the graduation requirements for at least one year.

The lawmakers who chair the two main education committees in Olympia both said Thursday that the idea of delaying the math and science graduation requirements will get a good hearing during the next legislative session.

Senate Education Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, said she shares Dorn’s timeline concern but doubts the governor will be on board with the idea.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said repeatedly that she does not want to delay the math and science graduation requirement.

“It is frustrating and it is very disappointing to keep talking about delay,” said Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the state Board of Education.

Every time the state has delayed the new high school graduation requirements, progress on improving instruction has slowed, she said. Any plan to delay the graduation requirements should be coupled with a plan for accelerating progress, she added.

The class of 2013 will be the first group required to take math through Algebra 2. Students who have completed Algebra 2 are passing the WASL at high levels, Ryan said.

“The WASL will take care of itself if kids are taking the content and they get effective instruction,” she said.

The proposed replacement for the high school science and math WASL, based on the new learning standards, was to be tried out by some districts in 2011 and be used statewide the following year. OSPI also is creating replacements for the WASL’s reading and writing components, which likewise were to be adopted in 2011.

The new tests to replace the WASL have been tentatively called the “Measurements of Student Progress” for grades three through eight, and the “High School Proficiency Exams” for older students.

In spring 2010, before the new tests are finished, high school students will be taking something very similar to the WASL but it will be called by the new name, said OSPI spokesman Chris Barron.

Dorn also announced Thursday that the WASL and its successor tests for elementary and middle schools would be moved from April to May, and these new tests will be ready by next spring.

For students in grades 3-8, new tests in reading, writing and math will be tried out in spring 2010. The new assessments will be shorter and the time it takes to administer them will be cut in half, school officials said.

“I’ve heard from educators around the state that the students suffer from testing fatigue. By cutting the testing time in half, we shouldn’t see that any longer,” Dorn said in a statement.

The Washington Education Association applauded Dorn’s announcement about the WASL changes.

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