Education

Get rid of biology test as high school graduation requirement, state board says

The State Board of Education is recommending that the Legislature eliminate the biology test as a requirement for high school graduation, just as the first group of Washington students is being required to pass the test to earn a diploma.

The 16-member board voted unanimously last week to advise the Legislature to no longer tie high school graduation to students’ performance on an end-of-course exam in biology. This year’s seniors are the first Washington high school students required to pass the biology end-of-course exam or an approved alternative to earn a high school diploma.

The state board’s recommendation comes as state schools chief Randy Dorn is asking the Legislature to eliminate all high-stakes tests as requirements for students to graduate from high school. Dorn is suggesting that school districts still administer tests based on the Common Core State Standards to comply with federal accountability requirements, but that the tests not be part of students’ graduation requirements.

The State Board of Education’s recommendation is more limited and only applies only to the biology test, wrote Ben Rarick, the board’s executive director, in an email. At this point, the state board does not share Dorn’s position that the Legislature should separate students’ performance on standardized tests from high school graduation requirements, Rarick wrote.

The State Board of Education provides policy oversight for the state’s education system.

In a press release, board chair Isabel Munoz-Colon said board members want the state to focus on implementing new comprehensive science standards developed by a multistate consortium, as well as “giving students exposure to a broad array of science content.”

“Focusing on biology often comes at the expense of a broad STEM-based science curriculum for our students,” Munoz-Colon said, invoking a commonly used acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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