Hundreds of students are waiting for lawmakers to figure out a compromise that will allow them to graduate this year. The biology testing requirement should be eliminated, but English and math should stay.
HUNDREDS of Washington state high-school seniors are still waiting to hear if they will be getting a diploma this month. Passing the state high-school biology test, which current law requires them to pass before graduating, should not hold them up.
The biology testing requirement should end — as many lawmakers, school administrators, Washington State Board of Education members and the superintendent of public instruction all agree. However, the other two graduation exams in math and English are worthy and should remain.
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. With commencement ceremonies looming, state officials and lawmakers should hurry up and work out a deal to fix that problem and allow students otherwise eligible to graduate.
The problem affects few students — one or two at every Seattle high school, according to the school district. This week, a spokesman for the state superintendent’s office said the number is about 1,000 statewide and diminishing as students meet the requirement in other ways. Students should not fail to graduate because of an outdated requirement.
The state Senate already has passed a bill to get rid of the biology graduation exam. But the House has not. In fact, the Democratic vice chairs of the House Education Committee, Reps. Monica Stonier of Vancouver and Laurie Dolan of Olympia, argued on these pages Monday that no test should be used for graduation. That is the wrong approach.
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.
The testing system — and the state’s graduation requirements — can be improved. Many policy leaders are arguing to move the tests back to 10th grade to give students more time to meet the standard, if they fail on the first try. Earlier tests — they are currently given in 11th grade — will give students more time to take classes and learn the math and English they need to prepare for college or career training. Moving the tests seems sensible.
Disappointingly, negotiations on a solution have stalled. Lawmakers and education officials should continue to explore alternatives, but must not let the students who have met every other graduation requirement but the biology exam get caught up in that discussion.
This is something lawmakers can do, with little fanfare, just in time for graduation this year. They will make hundreds of students and their parents happy, while maintaining the value of a Washington high-school diploma.