The gap in high school graduation is narrowing in the state of Washington. So, why are not all students doing better at state exams?


For students from traditionally marginalized communities, graduation rates have climbed to double digits. But why have not they experienced comparable growth with standardized tests?

Neal Morton

Over the last five years, Washington State has made significant progress in helping more students from traditionally marginalized communities graduate from high school.

For example, only about 62% of Hawaiian and Pacific Island students completed high school in four years in 2013. The 2018 and 74% students graduated on time.

This 12-point increase represents the largest increase recorded by a race or ethnic group of students in the last five years, according to a presentation the state of Washington's education council will hear at his meeting this week. But why did not Hawaiian / Pacific Island students make similar gains? standardized tests?

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Between the 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 school years, their pass rates for English and mathematics exams and math tests have barely budged and are just below 40 and 30%, respectively.

The same is true for learners in English: although their graduation rate has increased by almost 14 points since 2013, the proportion of learners in English who passed the ELA test remained low (14%) between 2014 and 2018. Their math pass rate actually dropped by a percentage. point.

White students, on the other hand, improved their graduation rate by about 4 percentage points and posted double-digit gains in CSR. Their passing rate on mathematics exam increased by six percentage points.

"The issue is more complex than a success or failure rate," Alissa Muller, a spokesperson for the National Board of Education, wrote in an e-mail. "The student results may be increasing, but not to the point of being in the overall skill rate at the moment. As a result, more learning may occur, which may not reflect the percentage of students meeting the standards. "

In some cities where graduation rates have risen rapidly, stagnation with other academic parameters has been a drag on affirmations of progress. concerns about grade inflation and diploma mills. Last year, the Washington DC Public School District, revised his graduation rates significantly after a NPR and WAMU Investigation found many seniors who graduated in 2017 despite several days of schooling or missing credits.

Muller suggested that there could be several reasons why graduation rates have risen faster than the skills of students.

One possibility: secondary schools have begun to pay more attention to ninth grade performance in their basic classes – a strong predictor whether first year students will graduate on time or not at all.

In 2017, Education Lab explained how educators have tried to dissociate the "Ninth year strangulation bottleneck" to help more students to graduate. And this year, Senator Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, introduced legislation this would have forced school districts to focus more on the success of first-year students. (The bill missed a key legislative deadline earlier this month.)

In addition to graduation rates and student scores on math and reading exams, the State Board of Education tracks three other indicators of what it calls the "health education system" . The state has not achieved its annual targets in these six measures, according to a report from 2018.

"Our report on the state of health of the system recognizes these successes and gaps in opportunities, and presents a series of recommended reforms to address them," Muller said.