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OSPI Testing Proposal Reviewed by AWSP Leaders

On Dec. 2, 14 high school principals serving on the AWSP Board, Washington Association of Secondary School Principals (WASSP) Executive Committee, and the AWSP Legislation Committee joined AWSP staff members for a conference call discussing the pros and cons of State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s legislative proposal to delink state-mandated testing as a graduation requirement, beginning in the spring of 2016. Gary Kipp, AWSP Executive Director, led the call to evaluate the merits of the idea.

ADVANTAGES

Dorn’s proposal is to use the Smarter Balanced language arts and math assessments for federal accountability purposes and as a diagnostic tool, but not as a graduation requirement. Superintendent Dorn believes some of the advantages would be:

  1. Clarity - There would be only one test at the high school level with just one cut score. This would simplify a confusing and messy system for students and parents that is currently in place and hard to understand.
  2. Student Support - $29 million currently used for makeup testing, collection of evidences, etc. could be repurposed to help students meet the 24 credit graduation requirement. Students who do not meet standard on the tests would be required to take and pass a locally determined class during the senior year to ensure the student is career and college ready.
  3. Instructional Time - Instructional time could be added back into the school year. Under Superintendent Dorn's proposal, the Smarter Balanced assessments would be administered once a year in early May with the results being available to schools by the end of May.

CONCERNS

As principals discussed the proposal, some of the areas of concern about delinking testing from graduation included:

  1. Student Motivation – If students do not need to pass the test, how valid and reliable will the results be in measuring what students know and are able to do? Superintendent Dorn reports that 22 states do not or have never had a “testing” graduation requirement.
  2. Accountability – Federal accountability is measured by a single test score. A school's and a principal's success or failure, along with the school’s graduation rate, is the major driver on what kind of job a principal is doing leading his or her staff and students. Test results do impact the perception of the community on how their tax dollars are being used.
  3. Staff Motivation – With the requirement of passing state tests removed, there is some concern if building staffs would feel the same sense of urgency for improvement or ownership in the Common Core standards.
  4. Inconsistency – Locally determined classes required for students who did not meet standards on the 11th grade tests could be uneven in their rigor and standards across the state. Without an independent assessment to ensure students are ready for college or a career, there could be students who are not prepared for their future.

NEXT STEPS

It is expected that draft legislation will be officially introduced early in the 2015 legislative session, which begins Jan. 12. When introduced, the group will review the details in the specific proposal. In late January, the WASSP Board and the AWSP Board will include the delinking proposal on their quarterly board meeting agendas. At that time, the decision will be made to support, oppose or be neutral on the proposal.

In the meantime, if you have thoughts around the topic, please email Jerry Bender or call him at 800.562.6100.