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95 Percent Of Garfield High School Juniors Ditch State Testing

Garfield High School
Flickr Photo/Don Brubeck (CC-BY-NC-ND)
The 11th grade test isn't required to graduate, so many students have skipped it this week.

Eleventh graders in Washington state are saying heck no to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. At Garfield High School in Seattle’s Central Area, 95 percent of kids didn’t show up to the test this week.

At Richland High School in Eastern Washington, 83 percent of juniors didn’t show up on the first day of testing. (Some may have shown up later, but a compliance officer at the school said that was highly unlikely.)

The test is not required to graduate, which is why they’re not showing up.

Kevin Nguyen, a junior at Garfield, says the test takes up precious time.

“This time’s a pretty busy time of the school year,” he says. “Having to worry about this test – that’s absolutely ridiculous. We can’t afford to take this much class time for something that doesn’t go towards graduation.”

Washington State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn argues that’s the wrong attitude. He agrees there’s a problem with testing – but people should be upset about the required 10th grade test, he said.

Dorn said the 10th grade test measures the minimum students need to achieve to graduate from high school. That’s not helpful, he said, because just graduating kids isn’t enough anymore. “The public schools have taken a big hit because, yeah, you’re graduating kids, but they’re not prepared to go on,” he says.

Dorn says the 11th grade test, on the other hand, provides students with all kinds of useful information. He says the Smarter Balanced test gives students a checkpoint of where they’re actually at.

“If you’re a little weak in an area, use your senior year to skill up and be ready to move to the military, an apprenticeship program, a community college technical school or a four year program,” he says.

Beyond wasted time, critics have said the 11th grade tests have a high failure rate.

Randy Dorn disputes that – he says scoring lower on the test doesn’t indicate failure; he says the test results give students information they could use to plan their future after high school.