Washington State House Democrats


Two minutes will change your mind about high-stakes testing

Five minutes could restore the hopes and dreams of 2,000 career and college-bound students.

By Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater)

I hope you are spending some quality time with your friends and family this beautiful holiday weekend in the Pacific Northwest. The Legislature should have completed its work by now, but unfortunately, we aren’t finished.

If I had to guess, continued legislative squabbling is the last thing on your mind right now.

But for 2,000 high school seniors in Washington, their career and college dreams are in serious jeopardy if the House and Senate do not resolve a major problem with high school assessments.

Doing right by these 2,000 students, and the tens of thousands more in the pipeline, is why we’re still in session.

 Legislative Support Services
State Rep. Chris Reykdal with high school senior Jesus Celes. Jesus will not receive his diploma unless the Legislature approves HB 2214.

Jesus Celes, a senior at Washington High School in Tacoma, is one of those 2,000 students. He got As and Bs in his classes, worked hard, and dreams of going to college to become a police officer.

What’s holding him back?

A broken assessment system that we implemented several years ago. It’s badly broken and needs to be fixed so students like Jesus can go on to lead successful lives.

Jesus failed the biology state-wide assessment by one point. This assessment has many flaws, including the fact that it tests students on materials they never learned in class. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring student achievement, but it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work and we need to fix it.

Staying true to the very definition of bipartisanship, I worked with Republican Representatives David Taylor and Chad Magendanz all session to find the right solution to this problem.

The solution is HB 2214. It passed off the House floor THREE TIMES this year with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans.

Politics is the only thing stopping this bill from becoming law and giving hope to 2,000 seniors who are at home right now with uncertain futures.

My colleague in the Senate, Sen. Sharon Nelson, has an excellent op-ed in today’s News Tribune:

We feel strongly that it is simply unfair to ask a high school senior to “let it ride” on one single test. What does it say about the rest of that student’s entire academic career when poor performance on one test on one day can derail graduation?

We are not alone in this belief. Three times this year, our colleagues in the House – Republicans and Democrats – overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2214, which will reform our state’s entire high-stakes testing system. This will allow 2,000 kids to graduate this year and reform this broken system for students in the future.

This solution is a way to maintain high standards, but give kids a chance to show they’ve met those standards through additional coursework instead of more high-stakes tests.

If this bill lowered academic expectations, a whopping 92 House Republicans and Democrats wouldn’t have joined forces to pass this bill for a third time just four days ago in a last-ditch effort to fix the system.

But just like before, Senate Republicans neglected to even give the bill a hearing, let alone debate its merits.

If you have two minutes today, please listen to Jesus’ story.

If you have five minutes, please contact Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoelser and urge him to bring HB 2214 up for a vote.

HB 2214 has enough support to pass in the Senate. Sending it to the Governor’s desk will fix a broken assessment system, end this session once and for all, and most important, restore the hopes and dreams of 2,000 young people like Jesus.