LONG BEACH PENINSULA — Washington state high school seniors no longer need to pass state assessments to graduate.
The Washington State Board of Education is scheduled to adopt new graduation requirements on Nov. 7. Instead of having to pass a state assessment, students will have seven options to graduate.
The Washington State Legislature passed the requirement changes in April 2019.
Superintendent Amy Huntley said the changes won’t impact Ocean Beach School District.
“We’re getting our kids through school already,” Huntley said. “Kids aren’t not getting their diplomas simply because of tests. They have other components missing, like failed classes.”
Since 2007, there hasn’t been an OBSD student in jeopardy of not graduating because they were missing only the state test requirement, Huntley said.
Host of options
The new options allow students to choose from:
1. Passing Smarter Balanced Assessments. These tests, which are the state assessments, measure student understanding of English and math.
2. Earning college credit through dual credit programs. These programs partner the high school with a college. OBSD students can choose to take high school courses linked to Central Washington University, or a local community college.
3. Passing Advanced Placement exams. OBSD students can take AP social studies and math courses.
4. Passing college admissions exams. Students who meet certain requirements on the SAT and ACT can use their test scores to pass the state requirement.
5. Passing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This test is required for individuals entering the armed services.
6. Earning credits through career and technical education (CTE) courses. OBSD students can take courses on topics such as computer applications.
7. A seventh option, taking Bridge to College courses, is available for students, but not in OBSD. The school district doesn’t offer this option because past courses have had low enrollment, Huntley said.
Of the seven options, the ASVAB and CTE options are new for students. School districts are still waiting to get guidance from the state on what those requirements will look like for students. The scores necessary to use the ASVAB, and the CTE course options, haven’t been made public by the state’s Board of Education.
“We’re doing the best we can within our means of understanding,” Huntley said. “It’s very difficult to tell parents during the school year we don’t know what the graduation requirements are for their kids.”
School districts are also waiting for graduation requirements information for students in special education. Students could before earn a certificate of academic achievement (CAA) or a certificate of individual achievement (CIA) to graduate.
Students no longer have the option between the two certificates because the CAA was eliminated as an option. The CIA is still required of students, and will be through 2021, but school districts don’t know what will happen after 2021.
“The [special education] changes could be a real serious problem,” Huntley said. “I hope they choose to maintain options for special education students.”
Still some testing
While the state no longer requires students to pass the state assessments, students still essentially have to pass some type of test.
“The easiest pathway is still to just pass the test,” Huntley said. “The new requirements sound like students don’t need to pass a test but that’s not true. Most options are college-based and require a test.”
During the 2018-2019 school year, 63 students took the state’s English test; 66 students took the math test; and 72 students took the science test, according to the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Of these students, 30 students passed the English test (47.6 percent); seven students passed the math test (10.6 percent); and 25 students passed the science test (35.1 percent).
Students can take the state assessments starting their sophomore year. Once they’ve passed the tests, they’re not required to take them again.
“Students can take whatever classes they want after they pass the tests,” Huntley said.
The test requirement isn’t all Washington state requires of students. Students also have to complete 24 course credits and a High School and Beyond Plan. Class credits must include four credits of English; three credits of math, science and social studies; two credits of arts, health and fitness, and world language; one credit of career and technical education; and four credits of electives.
Two credits can be waived for students who have special circumstances.