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Lawmakers Rethink High School Graduation Standards

Tom Banse
02/26/2001

Tough new graduation requirements for Washington public schools don't take effect until the class of 2008. But already some parents and lawmakers are questioning the standards and seeking to delay or abandon certain requirements. Olympia correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Sound: [Orchestra plays "Pomp and Circumstance"]; establish, then fade under A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA IS SUPPOSED TO CARRY MORE MEANING STARTING IN 2008. TO WALK DOWN THE GRADUATION AISLE, STUDENTS WILL HAVE PASS TOUGH STATEWIDE TESTS IN READING, WRITING, MATH AND COMPREHENSION. THEY'LL ALSO HAVE TO DO A SENIOR PROJECT DEMONSTRATING ANALYTICAL ABILITY AND ORGANIZATION. AND TAKE CLASSES IN SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND ART. OR MAYBE NOT. Sound: [music stops abruptly] IN OLYMPIA, LAWMAKERS ARE BEING PRODDED BY SOME PARENTS AND SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS TO RETHINK WASHINGTON'S NEW GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS. OLYMPIA PARENT KATIE WOODLAND SEES A TRAIN WRECK IN THE MAKING. Woodland: "This all or nothing form of quantifying a child has nothing to do with education. It's another game with a score. The testing companies are the winners and our kids are going to be the losers." WOODLAND FEARS HER DISABLED CHILD WILL FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS. Woodland: "A disabled child needs to have a diploma as much as anyone else. You can't get a job without one no matter how menial it might be." STATE LAWMAKERS ARE REACTING IN A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT WAYS. REPUBLICAN SENATOR STEVEN JOHNSON OF KENT WOULD DROP THE REQUIREMENT THAT STUDENTS PASS THE STATE TESTS TO GRADUATE. Johnson: "At this point, fewer than half the tenth graders in the state are passing that test. So even if they improve, it's unlikely they would get up to the kind of rate you'd expect for students to graduate." JOHNSON FEARS LARGE NUMBERS OF STUDENTS WILL GET THE MESSAGE THEY'RE FAILURES. THEY'LL DROP OUT AND GO THROUGH LIFE DISADVANTAGED. OTHER LEGISLATORS HAVE PROPOSED DELAYING THE TOUGH GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS TO GIVE SCHOOLS MORE TIME TO IMPROVE. YET ANOTHER THRUST SEEKS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT GRADUATES COMPLETE A SENIOR PROJECT. IT'D REMAIN A LOCAL OPTION. WASHINGTON'S BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS REACTING WITH ALARM. C-E-O'S FROM MANY OF THE STATE'S LEADING COMPANIES PRESSED HARD FOR EDUCATION REFORM. AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES' LYNN NIXON TELLS LAWMAKERS THIS IS NO TIME TO BACK DOWN. Nixon: "It's still seven years before students must pass those assessments in order to graduate. We had a very difficult time believing that our schools and school districts could not help fifth graders over a time span of 7 years, and then with multiple opportunities to retake the assessment, to meet these goals." BUSINESS LEADERS LIKE NIXON WANT THE ASSURANCE THAT THE GRADUATES THEY HIRE CAN READ, WRITE, AND THINK CRITICALLY. Nixon: "We can help our kids meet these new standards. Let's not send the message that we do not believe that our students, our teachers, our schools and our school districts are not capable of meeting these." THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND STATE SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT ALSO OPPOSE EFFORTS TO WEAKEN OR DELAY THE TOUGH NEW GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS… AND THEY'RE PREVAILING. BUT THE SCHOOL OFFICIALS SAY THEY'RE WILLING TO EXPLORE ALTERNATE MEASURES OF HIGH PERFORMANCE. A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL HIGH STAKES TEST MAY PROVE UNWORKABLE FOR EXAMPLE FOR DYSLEXIC OR IMMIGRANT STUDENTS. STATE HOUSE AND SENATE PANELS PLAN TO VOTE AS EARLY AS TODAY (MONDAY) TO FORM A STUDY GROUP TO SUGGEST ALTERNATE ROUTES TO A MEANINGFUL DIPLOMA. I'M TOM BANSE IN OLYMPIA.

04.20.18

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