State lawmakers should back graduation test bill

Washington has the dubious honor of requiring our high school students, starting with this year’s sophomores, to pass five separate high-stakes tests in order to graduate. No other state requires as many. Twenty-six states have no must-pass graduation exams. Ten states have one or two, four have three and nine have four.

Every state must test its students in math and reading, but it is discretionary whether to use the test results as diagnostic and informative or for punitive graduation requirements. There is no universal mandate to add tests in other subjects, such as writing and science.

Educators argue that the trend toward increased testing has a detrimental effect on real learning, and the sanctions imposed on schools that don’t increase test scores every year have not improved student performance.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn made a common-sense proposal being considered as House Bill 2047, a newer version of the original measure introduced by Rep. Sam Hunt. Rather than eliminate subjects from tests, Dorn suggests consolidating them into three graduation exams.

Dorn’s idea comes with an added benefit. He estimates the state will save $20 million annually by eliminating two tests.

For more than one reason, the Legislature should pass this bill.