Update: Washington students doing better with new tests, timing

Aug 30, 2011

Math appears to be less of a problem than it used to be for Washington students trying to graduate from high school. More than two-thirds of them passed new state tests required to get their diplomas. Some students could even clear the hurdle before they finish middle school. 

Math used to equal the state’s most vexing subject when it came to test scores.  Randy Dorn is the state’s superintendent of public instruction.  He says the problem for a lot of students was sometimes they were taking tests on concepts they learned years earlier.   

“Before, we didn’t test until the 10th grade," he says. "So, these kids that took, probably, algebra in the 7th grade, geometry in the 8th grade, algebra II and they were in trig by the 10th grade, and they would take our other test, they probably didn’t score quite as good, even though they’re super bright in math.”

In short, by the time they got to the test there were some functions of math that they didn’t quite remember.

Now the state tests required to graduate high school are “end-of-course” exams given right after students finish algebra and geometry. Even if they take those classes in middle school. 

Middle school success

Last year, more than 38,000 middle school students took the tests. They actually had better passing rates than older students. Nearly 84 percent of eighth graders met standards in algebra, while no more than 60 percent of any grade in high school did. 

Dorn says that doesn’t mean more kids should take the test in middle school.

“It’s just testing kids when they’re mathematically ready,” he says.     

Apparently, the new approach boosts tests scores at any age. Roughly 10-percent more sophomores passed one of the new exams than cleared math on the old statewide tests.

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