Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday delayed until 2013 a requirement that students pass the math and science portions of a high-stakes exam in order to graduate from high school.
She also liberally applied her veto pen to four large sections of the bill overhauling the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam.
Gregoire said she would have preferred to delay the math and science WASL graduation requirement only until 2012.
She eliminated the sections of the WASL overhaul bill that would have established end-of-course exams, regional appeals, a special exemption for students learning English as a second language, and the clause declaring an emergency.
Gregoire said her actions should not be interpreted as a move away from high standards, because every student deserves a chance to meet the high standards necessary to compete in the global economy.
“Our students cannot and will not be penalized because the state hasn’t done its job in our education system to ensure that they have the math and science skills they need,” she said. “We’re going to get it right … We’re not going to give up on any student in the state of Washington.”
WASL bill sponsor Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, expressed disappointment that a new regional appeals process will not be able to help students in the Class of 2008.
McAuliffe promised to find new ways to help low-income students and those from families where English is not the first language. “I applaud school administrators who brought their concerns to Olympia this session,” McAuliffe said. “I’m hopeful we’ll work together to find new options for students who struggle to demonstrate their knowledge in a traditional manner.”
The Class of 2008 was scheduled to be the first group required to pass the reading, writing and math sections of the WASL to graduate. The science section of the test was set to become a graduation requirement in 2010.
The Class of 2008 will still be required to pass the reading and writing tests.
Some legislators, as well as school officials, had pushed for a delay of the reading and writing tests at the same time as the math and science exams. McAuliffe said she had the votes to defer the entire WASL graduation requirement, but she knew the governor would not go along.
Gregoire repeated her support for the reading and writing tests on Tuesday, calling the 85 percent average passing rate on reading and writing “amazing progress.”
The WASL was created in response to state and federal pressure to hold high school students to higher academic standards.
According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 10,831 of this year’s high school juniors who have taken the test did not pass the reading portion, 11,718 haven’t passed the writing and 32,855 haven’t passed the math. The class includes 82,992 students, but not all have taken all three sections of the test.
The Washington Roundtable, a business group that consistently lobbies for higher education standards, expressed disappointment about the math and science delay.
The Washington Education Association, the state teachers’ union, conducted a small rally Tuesday across the street from the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office to protest the WASL and demand Superintendent Terry Bergeson take a more active role in advocating for more money for education. The WEA also delivered letters signed by more than 11,000 teachers, parents and others to Bergeson’s office.
Helping students meet high standards is important, the governor said, but she also wanted students to know they also have to work hard.
“As the CEO of a company recently told me, ‘Don’t delay failure. Make students know they have to meet standards when they’re in school. Give them a diploma that means something.’ Washington state is going to do that,” she said.