State embraces Common Core education standards

SEATTLE — Despite opposition from Washington teachers and their union about new national education standards and the tests that will judge how they are being taught, the state is plowing ahead with its plans to embrace Common Core.

Washington adopted the standards for math and English in 2011 and began using them in its public schools the following school year. This past spring, tests being developed to gauge how well students are learning the new standards were piloted in Washington.

During the 2014-15 school year, the new tests will be used instead of the previous state-developed testing system.

But Washington teachers and their union have expressed concern about both the new education standards and the tests, saying they need more time to get used to the program before being judged on how well their students are doing.

Washington law says students in the class of 2019 will be expected to pass the new tests in English language arts and math to earn their diploma.

The Washington Education Association used the rush toward the new national standards as one reason to stop the Legislature from changing the state’s teacher evaluation system to include data from statewide tests.

The teachers union says it will take years to implement the new curriculum and get used to the tests, so it doesn’t make sense to grade teachers on their students’ scores on those tests.

In part because of that argument, the 2014 Legislature failed to change its teacher evaluation system to meet the demands of federal education officials. Because of that inaction, Washington lost its waiver from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Along with the waiver, Washington school districts lost control of about $40 million in federal education dollars and were forced to go back to the old system of evaluating schools.

In addition to passing the new national tests for math and English Language Arts, students in the class of 2019 must pass a science end-of-course exam or a yet-to-be-adopted science test being developed by another national group.

Joe Willhoft, executive director of the national group creating the math and English tests, said the high school test will determine whether a student is ready to take college-level classes in those subjects.

But Willhoft, a former Washington state education official, said that might not be the appropriate standard for a graduation exam, since college readiness is a goal of K-12 education but not yet a diploma requirement.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is creating the math and English tests.

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