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Governor opposes delay in WASL math and science

Gov. Chris Gregoire says she opposes state schools chief Randy Dorn’s proposal to delay the requirement for students to pass state math and science tests to graduate.

Dorn announced on Thursday a proposal to delay the math requirement until 2015 and science until 2017.

The governor says the state’s economy depends on Washington students leaving high school well trained in math and science. Gregoire says the superintendent is concerned about the state’s graduation rate but she is concerned about preparing kids for life.

Dorn also wants to establish a “two-tier” bar for passing state math tests. If students fall short of passing at a “proficient” level, they could still graduate if they score at a “basic” level and pass four years of math classes.

Last spring, just 45 percent of 10th-graders passed math on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and 39 percent passed science. The WASL is to be replaced with a new test this spring.

Rumors about Dorn’s proposals generated strong concern from groups such as the League of Education Voters and the Washington Roundtable, an association of corporate executives. Both organizations have been pushing for high-school standards that prepare all students to go to four-year colleges, even if they are not so inclined.

Dorn’s proposal “doesn’t appreciate the role that math and science play in our economy, and our future,” said Lisa Macfarlane of the League of Education Voters.

Many people also think the passage rate in math and science will go up when students know the test counts for graduation.

But Dorn said he thinks students are doing their best on the math test now. He says his proposals would lead to a fairer system — one that would allow him to look people in the eye and assure them that all students had a reasonable chance of graduating.

The Legislature would have to approve the proposals before they could be enacted.

For the past two years, the state has required high-school students to pass tests in reading and writing to graduate, with plans to add science and math by 2013.

While few have failed to graduate because of the reading and writing tests, there is considerable concern about the prospect of also having to pass math and science.

Dorn insists he’s doesn’t want to lower the bar, but says there are a number of problems with expecting students to pass the math and science tests as planned.

One, he said, is that the state recently updated its math and science learning standards — and the state hasn’t yet updated its tests to reflect them.