Schools chief seeks compromise on testing requirements

Amid an ongoing budget stalemate in Olympia, the state schools chief has proposed a compromise in a long-running debate over high-school graduation requirements.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced Thursday that he has requested compromise legislation to exempt students from the requirement that they pass language arts, math and science exams to earn a diploma.

Already this session, lawmakers have debated whether to place a permanent moratorium on that requirement, as House Democrats would prefer, or provide a temporary exemption — and only for the science test — as Senate Republicans have proposed.

Reykdal, a former Democratic representative, wants to exempt this and next year’s graduating classes from all three testing requirements. And starting with the class of 2019, currently sophomores, students who don’t pass one of the exams would have six alternative options, including completing a college-level course or earning a minimum score on college-entrance exams.

Some supporters of the testing requirement point to the fact that since it went into effect in 2008, on-time graduation rates have increased and the share of graduates who enroll in remedial classes at two-year colleges have declined.

But Reykdal said tests don’t improve student outcomes. Instead, he noted taking more English and math classes through senior year have contributed to lower remediation rates.

In 2015, a similar debate over the fate of the biology test stalled a critical vote on class sizes and temporarily created a $2 billion hole in the state budget.

Lawmakers then ultimately agreed to a two-year delay for the science requirement.