About two-thirds of Bellingham students refused to take new state tests

About two-thirds of Bellingham School District juniors chose not to take new statewide tests last year, according to data released by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction on Monday, Aug. 17.

Only 8.2 percent of the district’s 11th-graders scored proficient on the Smarter Balanced math exam last school year, while 15.9 percent met standards for the English language arts test. The low numbers are due in part to more than 67 percent of Bellingham juniors being assigned a score of zero after many refused to take the tests.

Without counting the refusals, around half of Bellingham juniors met the standard for English language arts, and about a quarter of students did for math. Those are just below the passing rates for 11th-graders statewide.

The new state tests are aligned with Common Core standards and are administered in grades 3-8 and 11th grade.

Gil Mendoza, deputy state superintendent, called the proficiency rates for 11th graders “an anomaly” during a press conference Monday, pointing out that juniors in the 2014-15 school year did not have to pass the test for graduation.

Rates in Whatcom County for elementary and middle school students were mostly in line with state results, with around half earning proficient scores.

High school sophomores also took the test in the 2014-15 school year and had higher passing rates. Over 70 percent of sophomores statewide had proficient scores and won’t have to take the Smarter Balanced assessment as juniors, Mendoza said.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn said Monday that individual score reports will be available for students and parents in September.

To look up data for a specific district or school, go to www.k12.wa.us and click on the “2015 State Testing Results” link.

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.