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Schools superintendent moves to delay new graduation requirements

Seattle students work on math
Seattle Office for Education
Seattle students get extra help with math

This year’s high school freshman and sophomores might have fewer graduation tests to dread if Randy Dorn has his way.

The state’s superintendent of public instruction says students won’t be “adequately prepared” to pass the state’s required science and math evaluations for the class of 2013 and beyond.  So he says he’ll introduce legislation in January that’ll stall for time to get students up to speed. 

His proposal isn’t new.  Last year, he urged legislators to slow down the requirements they put into law, but he says there were no takers.  He says introducing legislation will force lawmakers to deal with his concerns. 

“It’s a fairness issue,” says Dorn.

Here’s what doesn’t sit well with him:

Current state requirement: All students in the class of 2013 and after must pass 2 end-of-course tests, one in algebra and the other in geometry. 

Why he thinks it’s unfair: The tests are supposed to be “end of the course” exams, but they won’t be available until this spring.  But a lot of students in the class of 2013, who are currently sophomores, took algebra in the eighth grade.  That means they’ll be tested on what they learned two years ago.  They’d also have to reach back a year to remember what they learned in Geometry to pass that exam.

His proposed solution: Students through the class of 2014 would be required to pass only one end-of-course exam in math.  Dorn says it would likely be the algebra exam because the sophomores he’s worried about are currently taking algebra II.

Current state requirement: All students in the class of 2013 and after must pass a comprehensive science test. 

Why he thinks it’s unfair: Dorn says not all elementary and middle schools spend equal time teaching science.  That means some kids might not have learned enough science to pass the test.

His proposed solution: Delay the science requirement until 2017.  Dorn says that gives the state time to make science instruction more consistent.  He says the state could also handle the disparity by accepting an end of course exam to fulfill the requirement instead of a general science test.  OSPI expects to have a biology end-of-course exam ready by spring of 2012.  Other sciences would follow.  Dorn says he’d like students to be able to choose which test fulfills the requirement so they don’t have to take classes over if they fail the high stakes test.

In an Op-Ed in today’s Seattle Times, Dorn also says these changes will save the state more than $30 million in the 2011-13 budget period.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.