Seventeen-year-old Lesley Delgadillo has the grace and poise of a student body president.
But she still couldn’t graduate this June from Puget Sound Skills Center High School in Burien. After several tries, she still hasn’t passed the state’s new biology requirement.
“I just thought I was a failure. Yeah,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m not gonna make it. My parents are going to think the worst of me.’”
The test is the latest in a series of exit exams introduced in recent years to prove that high school seniors in Washington have mastered certain skills – from reading to math.
Delgadillo is one of about three dozen students in the Highline School District who didn’t meet the science requirement in time for graduation.
That's despite a slew of achievement awards she’s earned
“This one was for being the ambassador at Washington, D.C.,” she said. “This one was being student of the year. This one is the one that I got from the superintendent, which was the Highline Student Superstar.”
Advocates of the exit exams say they ensure that students are ready for college or the job market.
But Alan Spicciati, chief accountability officer for the Highline schools, says a lot of students are just a few points shy of passing.
“Literally two or three items on a test is making a difference between them graduating and not, and we don’t think that’s within the best interest of students in Highline or in Washington state.”
Spicciati says there are now so many classes and tests required for graduation that it can be hard to fit in even more time for biology.
In Delgadillo’s case, she switched schools several times and each time missed the year they offered biology.
By the time she took the test, Delgadillo hadn’t taken biology since middle school.
This spring, a bill that would suspend the new graduation requirement and let students like Delgadillo graduate passed in the state House.
But in the Senate, Education Committee chairman Steve Litzow didn’t advance the bill.
He declined an interview but issued a statement that said, “Lowering standards is a poor excuse for a decades-long failure to create an education system that works for everyone.”
Delgadillo is waiting for results from her latest attempt at the biology test.
“It doesn’t define us – that’s what the teacher told us – it doesn’t define who you are as a student. I’m a good student. I’m doing a lot. And I’m just going to keep doing that.”