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High-Stakes Testing Efforts Hampered By Opt-Out Movement

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.

More than half of the state's 11th-graders skipped the new Common Core state tests in math and English language arts.

And, judging from their scores, it looks like a lot of kids who did take the tests didn't take them seriously.

That matters because the state is phasing in the tests as new graduation requirements.

The state had planned to calculate the passing grades on the new tests by comparing this first year's scores with the average scores from the previous state tests.

But that didn't work. So many 11th-graders blew off the tests this year that the new data is all but worthless, education officials say.

In the end, the state board went used this year's 10th-grade scores as the baseline, but promised to change them when better data comes in in future years.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, who sits on the state board, said the state shouldn't make kids pass these tests to graduate.

"'If I do X then this happens to me,' and we call that motivation. That's fear motivation," he said. "We should have motivation that kids are learning 'because it helps me out in the world.'"

This fall's 11th-graders will need to pass the new English language arts test to graduate. The math test kicks in two years later.

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not include the full list of cut score options the board considered.

Photo: 070305 by COCOEN daily photos on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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