The headline on a press release from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reads: "Class of 2011 Maintains 90-percent Passing Rate."
Well sort of.
The reality is that while a majority of Washington's high school seniors have passed the reading and writing portions of the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE), they're still struggling to meet minimum standards in the areas of math and science.
In a morning news conference, State Superintendent Randy Dorn praised the class of 2011 saying, "Our state has had great success in raising our reading and writing scores during the past ten years."
By state law, current seniors are required to pass the state's end-of-course math exam or earn two credits of math after their sophomore year. So far, only 61-percent of seniors have passed the exam (though final results aren't due until August). According to OSPI about a quarter of students end up meeting the graduation requirement for math by earning the additional credits - but that still leaves another ten percent who aren't meeting the mark.
For some seniors that means they've gotten all the way to the steps of the stage, but aren't being allowed to graduate because they've failed that portion of the exam and didn't take the extra math classes.
Students who are currently juniors won't have the two credit math option next year. They'll have to pass the math portion of the HSPE in order to graduate.
Dorn managed to convince lawmakers to remove science as a graduation requirement for students currently in high school. House Bill 1410 delays the requirement until 2015. That comes as good news to high school sophomores. when they took the test in April, fewer than half passed.
The Superintendent says those results signal the need for schools to focus their efforts on math and science.
"We cannot hold students responsible for a science graduation requirement until we provide them the level and frequency of instruction that they receive in reading, writing and math. To increase our graduation requirements at a time when the state Legislature is cutting resources from our schools doesn't pass my common sense test," Dorn said.
The HSPE is one of four state mandated requirements to graduate from a public high school in Washington. In addition to passing the tests, students must also earn at least 19-credits in specific subjects, complete a plan for their life after high school and do a culminating project.
In late August, OSPI will release final numbers for the HSPE, and the scores for 3rd-thru-8th graders on the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) tests.