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Washington to end standardized test requirement for high school graduates

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal championed the effort to create more pathways to graduation than only requiring that students pass the statewide assessments.

For high school students with test anxiety, there's good news. Starting next school year, the state will no longer require high school students to pass statewide assessments to graduate.

The legislature voted to remove the direct link between passing standardized tests and graduation and created eight pathways to receive a diploma.

Sabrina Slye, 15, is a ninth-grader at West Seattle High School. She said this will be a relief to a lot of students. She says a student's academic performance across his or her entire high school career should be weighted more heavily than "one single test." 

"They may have been having a bad day," she said, "or couldn't remember something, but they do know what is being taught." 

Students still will be expected to take standardized tests, because they're used for the state's school accountability system. If they pass the tests, they can use that to satisfy graduation requirements. But there also will be other ways to get a diploma, including passing the military entrance exam or earning above a certain score on the SAT or ACT.

Another pathway to graduation would be to take a sequence of career and technical classes leading to a job, apprenticeship or post-secondary education.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal championed this change. He said Washington was one of the last states to require students to pass standardized tests in order to get a diploma. The requirement may have caused some students to get discouraged and drop out, he said.

“It really was not effectively measuring what kids can do in the military, or in technical schools, or in apprenticeship programs or straight to work, and yet we were going to deny kids a diploma because of it,” Reykdal said. “So instead of making it the default path, it’s now one of many ways that students can demonstrate proficiency.”