The News Tribune endorses math and English graduation requirement; Everett Herald reports possible compromise

The News Tribune editorial board in a June 17 editorial we’d overlooked makes a compelling case for retaining the English and math graduation requirements. We’ve written about this issue before, including in our newsletter this week and last week. (If you’ve not yet signed up for our weekly updates, please do so at Join the Effort.)

As the TNT editorial writes,

We see standardized tests as a way to measure school performance; strengthen accountability and equity; and ensure kids don’t graduate just by recording seat time…

In January, the Washington Roundtable, a group of state business leaders, issued a report estimating our state could expect an additional 740,000 jobs over the next five years, but nearly 80 percent will require a post-secondary degree or other certification.

Right now, only 31 percent of students who attend a Washington public high school go on to attain a postsecondary credential by age 26. Standardized tests alone won’t raise that number, but they provide a useful metric on how school systems can better serve students — and perhaps more important, who they’re not serving.

Without linking tests to graduation, it’s reasonable to fear test participation will be low and the days of social promotion will return.

As the editorial points out, there’s general agreement that the biology assessment be suspended until a better science test, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, is available. But it’s important to retain the English and math requirement.
And on that score, Jerry Cornfield in the Everett Herald reports there are some developments that look positive to us.

The House Education Committee [yesterday] approved a bill that would keep in place a requirement that students pass the English and math tests to graduate and provide those who fail with a means of asking the superintendent of public instruction for an exemption.

Regarding biology, the legislation would suspend the graduation requirement until 2021 when a new science assessment would be used.

Cornfield writes,

Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, one of the lead GOP negotiators, said Monday he is “encouraged by the conversation” and “optimistic” they will result in changes that maintain objective standards while providing students a way to demonstrate the requisite proficiency of subject matter.

A linchpin in the deal is the appeal process for students who fail to pass the math or English language tests, or both. It would apply retroactively for the graduating classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and this year. It also would apply to those graduating in 2018 and 2019.

Read the story and the bill for more details. Retaining the graduation requirement is critical to making sure that Washington students graduate with a diploma that has meaning. There will never be a good time to retreat on this commitment.