By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — Just as Washington state officials predicted, most of Washington’s high school seniors are passing the statewide exams required to graduate. But that fact doesn’t make life any easier for the nearly 7,000 students in the class of 2013 who have yet to pass the newly required math test and didn’t get their diplomas in June.
This year’s graduating class was the first that had to pass either an algebra or geometry test in addition to previous requirements that included reading and writing exams.
Of the 71,671 students who stayed in school until the end of their senior year, more than 4,100 didn’t meet their math test requirement and another 2,700 never even attempted the exams, according to data released recently by the state education department to The Associated Press.
Some “seniors” will continue to work toward graduation by attending another year of high school, according to Nathan Olson, spokesman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. State law promises a free public education until age 21 for people who have not earned a diploma or GED.
Of the nearly 7,000 who didn’t meet their math test requirement in time to graduate in June, some will find out by August the results of a late spring exam or the graduation portfolio alternative called the collection of evidence.
The numbers are better than they were at the start of spring, between April 1 and June 6 more than 2,000 students received some good news, learning they met the state math requirement and graduated on time.
Overall, about 90 percent of Washington state seniors met the math standard by passing either the algebra or geometry exam or an approved alternative. That’s an improvement over a 71 percent passage rate on the algebra test and a 79 percent pass rate on the geometry test in 2012, the year before math became a graduation requirement.
Pass rates for writing and reading have been above 90 percent for the past few years. Students are given multiple chances to meet their graduation testing requirements. There are also various alternatives such as scoring well on the SAT or turning in a portfolio of academic work.
“Our teachers, students and families should be proud of their accomplishments,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, when this year’s test results were announced in late June.
“But I don’t want the students who dropped out of school to be forgotten,” he added.
More than 380 students who started their senior year in fall 2012 dropped out or transferred before June, Olson said. That number doesn’t include the students who dropped out in their freshman, sophomore or junior years.
Dorn has made increasing the number of Washington students who graduate from high school — in four years or longer— a top priority of his administration. The state’s five-year graduation rate has been inching toward 80 percent over the past few years.
The numbers for the class of 2013 won’t be announced until early next year.
Of those in the class of 2013 who didn’t make it to commencement, some transferred to private schools, which usually don’t require students to meet state graduation requirements to earn a diploma.
Bob Hagin, founder and principal of Northwest Liberty School, a mostly online private high school in Woodinville, says his program helps hundreds of seniors finish their public school work online or in a small learning lab. For students who just can’t fulfill all the state requirements, Hagin offers a private school diploma.
Hagin said his empathy for struggling students led him to start his school a few years ago, after more than 20 years in public education.
“I think they should be able to come to the finish line after 13 years of hard work,” Hagin said.
On the Net
Washington state testing: www.k12.wa.us/assessment/StateTesting/PLD/default.aspx
Graduation and Dropout Statistics: www.k12.wa.us/DataAdmin/ dropoutgrad