standardized testing

Today, President Obama and the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan, calling on states to cut back on "unnecessary testing" that consumes "too much instructional time" and creates "undue stress for educators and students."


More than half of all high school juniors did not take Washington's benchmark standardized tests this spring, according to preliminary data state officials released Thursday.

In fact, so many eleventh graders skipped the Smarter Balanced exams — more than 42,000 in total — that the state’s overall participation rate on the required tests dipped below a minimum level required by federal law.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

It's looking less and less likely state lawmakers will drop a graduation requirement currently standing between hundreds of Washington high school seniors and their diplomas.

This year, roughly 2,000 high schoolers passed all the tests they needed to graduate except one: biology. But with time running out in their session, legislators remain deadlocked over a proposal to drop biology as a graduation requirement.

David Goldman / AP Photo

More than 2,000 high school seniors in Washington state appear unlikely to graduate this year because they didn't pass a required biology test.

But while their predicament has caught Olympia's attention, a last-minute push to let those students get their diplomas anyway appears to have stalled in the State Senate as lawmakers debate what tests to link to graduation going forward.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

This week, eleventh graders at Seattle's Garfield High School were supposed to start taking a state- and federally-required standardized test of their English skills.

But more than 200 Garfield juniors, who don't need to pass the exams to graduate, are refusing to take Smarter Balanced assessments, forcing school administrators to postpone giving the exams until they could come up with a new testing schedule.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

Eleventh graders at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School will take a state- and federally-required standardized test after all, an apparent reversal of an earlier decision by staff, students and parents to boycott the exams this year.

"The [Smarter Balanced assessment] is required by the state. Therefore, to comply with Seattle Public Schools directives, students will be tested" in April, Nathan Hale Senate chair Melinda Greene said in an email to parents Thursday.

Wes Chapman / Flickr

The issues of race and class currently fueling protests around the U.S. manifest in a different way in the classroom, says Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian.

"Many of our students feel they're being set up," said the educator-activist and advisor of Garfield's Black Student Union who led the school's testing boycott in 2013.

Hagopian says the setup exists in the standardized tests policymakers across the nation have increasingly used to measure the gap in academic performance. The gap, he says, too often separates students of color from their white peers, and hold teachers and school leaders accountable for closing it.

Wes Chapman / Flickr

Someone altered test responses at Seattle's Beacon Hill International School in a way that significantly increased the elementary school's test scores. State education officials have now thrown out the entire school's results after noting "heavy erasure" marks on the test forms.

Whatever the reason for the alterations — both Seattle Public Schools and the state aren't using the word "cheating" — the changes produced some pretty startling test results, as a state analysis shows:

David Goldman / AP Photo

The impact of Washington's loss of a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act came into sharper focus Wednesday as nearly nine in 10 of the state's schools officially received failing labels despite little change in students' performance on statewide standardized tests.

Just 260 of the state's nearly 2,200 schools met their required yearly progress goals under the outdated federal law, state officials said as they denounced the impractical standard they say Washington schools must now meet.

biologycorner / Flickr

Seattle families should expect steep drops in student test scores as public schools adopt new national learning standards, according to a report to be presented Wednesday evening to the Seattle School Board.

Starting next year, students in Washington, 44 other states, and the District of Columbia will be held to new, tougher standards known as Common Core. That could cause some sticker shock once test scores start rolling in a year later.

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle public high schools will be able to opt out of the controversial Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, starting next year.

The policy change comes after teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School staged a boycott of the MAP tests in January, blasting the tests for giving unreliable data and for sucking up classroom resources. A half-dozen more Seattle schools have since signed on, and the protest has drawn national and international attention.  

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A group of Seattle teachers is trying to rally national support behind its boycott of a required test, even as they face reprisals from the school district. Teachers protesting the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, asked their supporters to besiege district headquarters with phone calls and emails. They say the tests waste class time and give misleading information, and they object to MAP scores being used in their own professional evaluations.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The standoff over a series of tests mandated by Seattle Public Schools heated up Wednesday, as another high school joined a growing boycott of the tests and district leaders threatened protesters with suspension.

Teachers say the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, assess material not covered in class, give poor results and swallow up teaching time. Four schools have rebelled against the tests, with Chief Sealth High the latest to join. Superintendent Jose Banda made clear Wednesday what the consequences of that boycott could be: up to 10 days' suspension without pay.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As students around Puget Sound begin a new school year, administrators are pushing hard to close disparities in student achievement.

biologycorner / Flockr

Washington students did a bit better last year on one of the major standardized tests measuring college readiness. Just about one in five Washington seniors takes the ACT – the SAT”s slightly less famous cousin – but that group saw modest gains over the previous four years.  Thirty-eight percent of test-takers met the college readiness standard in all four subjects tested: English, reading, math and science, up from 34 percent year before.

Bill S / Flickr

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. 

Seattle Public Schools

Some students with the lowest test scores in Washington have made big gains over the past few years, while others have fallen farther behind.

Researchers found a mixed bag when they looked at the Title I program, a federal effort to help disadvantaged kids.