Just half of high-schoolers passing science assessment

SEATTLE — Washington high school students continue to do well on statewide tests in reading and writing, but only about half are passing the science assessment, state officials said Tuesday.

Passing a science test won’t be a graduation requirement until 2015, but members of next year’s graduating class will be the last who don’t have to pass at least one math test. This year’s sophomores, who do have to pass a math test, took the state’s new end-of-course exams in the spring and will get their results in August.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn commended Washington students and educators for improving graduation rates over the past three years, despite decreasing state dollars for education.

Dorn said course completion continues to be more of a challenge for graduation than passing the statewide exams, but Washington continues to have a dropout problem.

Dropout rates have dropped in every racial group except for Pacific Islander students, who have seen their dropout rates increase over the past few years, but every racial group has a dropout rate above 10 percent. The overall dropout rate decreased from 19.4 percent in 2009 to 17.6 percent in 2010. Final numbers for 2011 are not yet available.

Preliminary results show overall state graduation rates went from 70.4 percent in 2006 to 76.5 percent in 2010. State officials expect the extended graduation rate for the class of 2011 — including kids who make up credits over the summer or during the next school year — will continue to be above 80 percent.

“It’s going to be difficult to sustain the increases in graduation rates” with state budget cuts taking money away from schools, Dorn said. “We’re going to need the resources for a 21st century education,” he said.

Dorn urged government leaders and the public to push for more dollars for education, especially as the economy starts turning around. Of this year’s tenth graders, more than 81 percent passed the reading test on their first try and nearly 84 percent passed the writing test. Results from math tests will be released in August. The passage rates are above 90 percent for this year’s seniors, who have had multiple chances to pass.

The High School Proficiency Exam is one of four state requirements for graduation. In addition to passing the tests in reading and writing, Washington students need to earn at least 19 credits, complete a plan for life after high and do a culminating project.

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