New Assessment Bill will provide more pathways to high school graduation

A bipartisan agreement gives students more flexibility in meeting their graduation requirements, including eliminating the requirement that students must pass the statewide science assessment to graduate. This brings relief to the Class of 2017 students who have yet to receive a diploma because of the science assessment, while they have met all other obligations.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill (ESHB) 2224, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, moves the high school standardized English language arts and math assessments from the 11th grade to the 10th grade. This shift gives students more time, as well as interventions and/or supports, to help them meet learning standards.

Although federal law requires students take English language arts, math, and science assessments once while in high school, it does not require students to pass them to graduate. Under the new state law, students will have additional pathways to demonstrate proficiency if they do not meet standard on the exams.

The Pathway to Graduation bill, which passed both the House and the Senate unanimously, was requested by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “I’m pleased legislators were able to put their differences aside and compromise in the name of helping all of our students succeed,” Reykdal said.

“We’ve learned that opening up multiple pathways will build on the momentum to tie education to our workforce needs. Students need and deserve multiple ways to show they know the state learning standards and have those competencies tied to career or college opportunities.”

Students can meet the assessment graduation requirement – known as earning a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) – by passing the English language arts and math tests. Alternative ways to earn a CAA if students do not meet standard on the assessments include:

- Achieving a minimum score on the SAT or ACT as determined by the State Board of Education;

- Achieving a minimum score on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test;

- Completing a dual credit course such as Running Start or College in the High School; or

- Taking and passing a locally-determined course based on the student’s High School and Beyond Plan, and passing a locally-created assessment at the end. Emphasis is placed on transition courses which give students significant advantages as they approach college placement decisions.

“Student success should not be tied to passing a single test,” Reykdal said. “Our current standard excludes thousands of bright students and, for some, serves as a road block when it should be a checkpoint. These assessments can have a chilling effect on a student’s future.”

Students in the classes of 2014 through 2018 will be given a chance to appeal if they haven’t yet earned a CAA but have met all other graduation requirements. Appeals may be initiated by the student, the student’s parent or guardian, or the student’s principal.

The local school district then, according to ESHB 2224, determines if the student has demonstrated the skills and knowledge needed to graduate from high school. If so, the district sends the appeal to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for final determination.

Ways to show necessary skills include but are not limited to:

(A)  Successful completion of a college level class in the relevant subject areas;

(B)  Admission to a higher education institution or career preparation program;

(C)  Award of a scholarship for higher education; or

(D)  Enlistment in a branch of the military.

“We have further steps to take in the coming years to create a more equitable assessment system for all of our students, but I believe this bill is an excellent step in the right direction,” Reykdal said.

“As a state, we will no longer be directing all of our students down a single pathway. Our students are all different and they all have different needs. We should be celebrating those differences and aligning them with college and career options that best prepare them for whatever postsecondary path they choose.”

About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

- Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction