Seattle Times editorial: Maintain high standards, continue to require high school graduation tests in English and math. We agree.

The Seattle Times editorial board again endorses graduation exams in English and math, while saying the biology exam should be waived. 

The biology test is no longer a relevant part of Washington’s graduation requirements as the state has adopted new science standards and is working on a new, more general science exam.

Most important, though:

Lawmakers should maintain Washington’s other graduation exams in math and English. The high standards Washington sets with its testing system hold students and their schools accountable. The state should have an objective standard for earning a diploma. Throwing out all the tests would be bad for students and for Washington’s education system. Implementation of Washington’s high stakes graduation tests has correlated with a decrease in rates of students having to take remedial classes at the college level.

We agree. The Times editorial notes an earlier op-ed by the Democratic vice-chairs of the House Education Committee that argued for dropping all graduation tests. The editorial board said, succinctly.

That is the wrong approach.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction also proposed dropping the required graduation tests.  Again, that’s the wrong approach, as we wrote at the time.

It’s a bad idea, as Washington Roundtable president Steve Mullin told the Seattle Times.

On-time graduation rates in Washington, even with the test requirement, have increased from 72 percent in 2007-08 to 78 percent in 2014-15. And the share of graduates who enroll in remedial classes at two-year colleges has declined, from 58 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2015.

The accountability requirement is working. There’s no need to abandon it. 

In March, the Times also ran a short, persuasive editorial supporting the testing requirements, which we acknowledged here with links to articles by national education experts endorsing high standards and accountability.

Briefly, from the Times March editorial:

ALTHOUGH only 13 states still require high school students to pass exams to earn their diploma, Washington has stayed the course to make sure high school diplomas continue to mean something…

Washington shouldn’t let its young people down by lowering the standards and failing to give them the education they need to succeed in life.

Washington’s high school diploma must continue to mean something to employers, colleges and training programs if students are going to use that piece of paper as a ticket to a meaningful career.

And from one an Education Next article by Kevin Hoffman, former commissioner of education in Tennessee.

…here’s the rub: test-based accountability, even executed poorly, works. From 1999 to 2011, during the heyday of NCLB and its state-level predecessors, overall student scores improved on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in both reading and math. Furthermore, scores rose faster for African American and Hispanic students, narrowing achievement gaps.

Again, we conclude: Accountability matters. And it works. Retain the graduation exams for English and math.