OLYMPIA – Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the Washington state House of Representatives are once again calling for immediate approval of HB 1046, which would delink high-stakes standardized tests as a requirement for students to earn a diploma.
Nearly 16,000 current high school seniors have not passed the English Language Arts (ELA), math, or biology assessment according to the Washington State School Directors Association.
“Throughout this policy debate, I keep coming back to one simple question,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle), chair of the House Education committee. “What’s best for kids? As lawmakers we should be adopting state education policies that focuses on success for our 1.1 million students and provides opportunities for every child to learn. Delinking assessments is the best policy for our kids.”
While most lawmakers agree a fix should be adopted this session, the legislative impasse is centered on how to solve the problem. The GOP-led Senate is backing SB 5891, which would delay only the science requirement for four years, but would provide no relief for 2,500 seniors that have not passed the ELA or math assessments.
The Democratic-controlled House has endorsed HB 1046, sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union), which would put a permanent end to the standardized assessment requirement for all three subject areas.
“This bill would not only save our state tens of millions of dollars, but it would also put a stop to an ineffective system that has diverted students away from learning,” said MacEwen. “Our job is to help create lifelong learners, not lifelong test-takers. Requiring them to pass a federally designed test that was never intended to be linked to graduation is an unnecessary burden we should not be imposing. If we simply trust the curriculum and our great teachers, I believe students will be adequately prepared for the important next steps of life. Let’s get this bill passed and to the governor’s desk.”
Delinking the high-stakes assessments from graduation requirements would save the state about nearly $40 million over the next four years.
House Education Committee vice chair Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) also expressed her support for HB 1046.
“The original intent was a good one,” said Stonier, a life-long educator. “These testing requirements were viewed back then as a way to improve academic outcomes. Lawmakers now know we aren’t getting the desired results and in many cases these high-stakes tests are doing real harm to students.”
“Not letting students graduate because they did not do well on a test in the 11th grade is ludicrous. State testing requirements have nothing to do with a student’s future ability to learn,” said Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver. “We are penalizing students who didn’t perform well on an assessment test and that is absolutely wrong. They very well may be students who complete their homework, get good grades and have a bright future ahead of themselves. We should not allow state-imposed testing assessments to hold back these students. We need to pass Rep. MacEwen’s bill and delink the high-stakes standardized tests.”
Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia) believes not passing this bill will roll back progress being made on closing the state’s opportunity gap.
“Failure to act on this critically important measure will only grow the opportunity gap in Washington state,” said Dolan, vice chair of the House Education committee. “Looking at the numbers, it is abundantly clear these high-stakes tests negatively impact students of color, English-language learners, students with special needs, and low-income students at disproportionate rates. Assessments play a key role in education, but they should be used to foster student success, not as a punishment tool.”
The graduating class of 2015 was the first class that would have been required to pass the science assessment requirements. Lawmakers in the 2015 Legislature couldn’t reach an agreement on a permanent solution to the assessment issue, so a compromise was reached to delay the science assessment requirement for two years.
The 2017 Legislature is now in a second 30-day special session to complete work on the budget and policy legislation necessary to implement the budget. HB 1046 was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 89-5.