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A coalition of Asian-American groups recently requested that the U.S. Department of Education investigate several Ivy League schools for discrimination. The group claims Asian-American applicants need higher SAT scores than other racial groups to get into these schools.

Do Asian-Americans face a different set of rules than everyone else? Youth Radio’s Amber Ly reports from San Francisco.

Read more on this story via Youth Radio

Last year, Susan Avey, the principal of Bogle Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz., had a heart-to-heart with one of her new teachers about how he was relating to students.

In a previous year, this might have been a conversation based on subjective impressions. The teacher might have gotten defensive. But this year, Avey had a new tool up her sleeve: a survey of her students.

"He came in to talk to me and said, 'I felt like I had really good relationships with kids, but reading my comments, I was surprised that I wasn't rated as highly.' "

For the first time in 25 years, America's fourth- and eighth-graders are doing worse in math, at least according to The National Assessment of Educational Progress.

NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, tests students in both grades every two years on math and reading ability. This year, math scores reversed a long, upward trend with both grades testing lower than they did in 2013.

Waking up early on a Saturday. Sharpened No. 2 pencils and a calculator. For teenagers headed to a four-year college, taking a standardized entrance exam such as the ACT and SAT is typically a requirement. But it's far from a universal experience.

In 50 of the largest U.S. cities, examined in a new report from the University of Washington, Bothell's nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education, fewer than 1 in 3 students takes either of those tests in a given year.

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Only around half of Washington students passed the new state tests in math and English.

That’s a big drop in scores from the old tests. But it’s what schools officials had predicted for the new Common Core assessments.

Scantron test sheet
Flickr Photo/COCOEN daily photos (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

So many high school students opted out of the state proficiency tests this year that policymakers face a problem: The Washington State Board of Education can't figure out what the passing scores should be.

Highline senior Lesley Delgadillo's graduation is held up by one thing: the biology exit exam newly required in Washington state this year.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

Washington State Senate Republicans and Democrats have agreed to delay a requirement for high school students to pass a biology exit exam this year and 2016.

This helps about 2,000 high school seniors who were supposed to graduate in June, but still hadn't met the science requirement.

One of the students is Lesley Delgadillo, whose story we brought you last month.

Washington Senate Republicans have agreed to suspend a biology exam requirement that’s keeping nearly 2,000 high school students from graduating.

The US high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. But why? NPR Ed partnered with 14 member stations around the country to bring you the stories behind that number. Check out the rest of the stories here in our slideshow. And find out what's happening in your state.

Garfield High School
Flickr Photo/Don Brubeck (CC-BY-NC-ND)

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.

Desk school education
Flickr Photo/alamosbasement (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., about the revised No Child Left Behind bill she crafted with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Test pencil
Flickr Photo/mammal (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland about the new state standardized test. 

Also, RadioActive reporter Ahlaam Ibraahim asks students what they think about the new test. 

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KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

It’s the day before state testing, and the Dimpsey and Rasche kids gather for a playdate in Kirkland.

Pearl, a third-grader at Peter Kirk Elementary, won’t take the test. “If people didn’t know it was such a big test then I think they would actually do a better job,” she says.

Garfield Teacher Jesse Hagopian says rising standards + inadequate education funding means minorities lose. Gerald Hankerson of the Seattle King County NAACP waits to speak.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

For the 11th-grade math test in Washington state, there's a version in Spanish. There's also a glossary to translate words into Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi.

Notice anything missing? 

Scantron test
Flickr Photo/biologycorner (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Katie Brown, an English language learner teacher at Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham, and Ross Reynolds talks to Lyon Terry, a fourth grade teacher at Lawton Elementary school in Seattle, about the challenges and advantages of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment test that students across Washington state will take this spring. 

Scantron test
Flickr Photo/biologycorner (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with Anya Kamanetz, NPR’s lead education blogger, about her new book, "The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed With Standardized Testing -- But You Don't Have To Be." She explains both sides of the controversy over standardized tests in public schools and why Seattle has become a center for the debate. 

Idaho parents who don’t want their child to have to pass the state’s standardized test for graduation would be able to opt-out under a bill in the state Senate.

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The 12th graders at Tyee High School are frustrated.

About half the class may not graduate because they’re failing state tests. The after-school classes that would help them catch up don’t fit into their lives.

That’s why, at Tyee's Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment, teachers are helping students turn frustration into political change. On a recent early morning, a group of seniors traveled to Olympia to lobby legislators.

Scantron test sheet
Flickr Photo/COCOEN daily photos (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to Jesse Hagopian, history teacher at Garfield High School, about his book "More Than A Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing."

Opening arguments began today in the trial of 12 Atlanta educators charged in an alleged cheating conspiracy that came to light in 2009.

Prosecutors claim there was widespread cheating on state tests throughout the city's public schools, affecting thousands of students.

The case has brought national attention to the issue, raising questions about whether the pressures to improve scores have driven a few educators to fudge the numbers, but also about broader consequences.

Ann Dornfeld / KUOW

A coalition of teachers and their supporters marched through downtown Seattle Thursday afternoon to the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The local branch of a national organization that calls itself the Badass Teachers Association was protesting the education reform efforts the Gates Foundation has generously funded, from charter schools to the new Common Core State Standards.

What are the two most feared — most reviled — words in the English language?

"Tax day," maybe? Or "traffic jam"?

"Pink slip" still connotes an awful brand of helplessness, even though, I assume, most Americans who get pink-slipped these days never see a pink slip.

No, my vote is for "standardized test."

That's right. You felt it, didn't you? Shivers up the spine. The stab of a No. 2 pencil. And oh! Those monstrous, monotonous bubbles. They may as well be a legion of eyes staring back at your inadequacy.

Test pencil
Flickr Photo/mammal (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The state’s largest teachers’ union has passed a motion to support parents and students who opt out of statewide standardized tests. The union also promotes opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium state test coming next school year to align with the new Common Core State Standards.

From Randy Dorn's Facebook page.

David Hyde talks with State Superintendent Randy Dorn about meeting federal teacher evaluation requirements and why Washington might lose their waiver from the No Child Left Behind law.

Candidate Websites

One of the hottest races on Seattle’s fall ballot isn't for mayor or city council, but a seat on the Seattle School Board.

COCOEN daily photos / Flickr

The standardized test that inspired boycotts by teachers across Seattle School District will be scaled back next school year.

In a letter to district staff today, Superintendent Jose Banda announced that the Measures of Academic Progress test will still be required in kindergarten though eighth grade, but it will be optional at the high school level.

The superintendent of Seattle Public Schools said no teachers will be disciplined for refusing to give students the district-wide Measures of Academic Progress test. The district got international attention after dozens of teachers at several schools boycotted the test this winter, calling it a waste of time and money.

With high school graduation ceremonies just three months away, nearly 15,000 Washington high school seniors have yet to pass the newest addition to the state's graduation requirements.

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda directed administrators at Garfield High School to give the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test Tuesday despite a mass boycott by the school’s teachers.

Ann Dornfeld

The Seattle School District warned teachers Wednesday they face a 10 day suspension without pay if they refuse to give students the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. The announcement came nearly two weeks after the teaching staff at Garfield High School announced they were refusing to give students the district-wide MAP test.

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