This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Randy Dorn’s timing is both politically astute and all wrong.
For days, the state schools superintendent was widely rumored to be preparing for battle over the state’s math and science graduation
Sure enough, on Thursday morning, Dorn’s office announced he would ask the Legislature to delay the math and science tests, and to allow students to pass math with lower scores.
Meanwhile, across the state Capitol campus at the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, chief economist Arun Raha was sucking all the air out of the news cycle. Little can compete with an ugly revenue forecast that puts the state $2.6 billion in the hole.
What’s a few years of delaying educational standards when the state is facing a budgetary train wreck (again)? Against that backdrop, Dorn’s
proposal might even look fiscally prudent. Getting students up to par in math and science becomes one less priority that state budget writers have to juggle.
The teacher’s union, which has long fought state standardized testing, called the plan “a positive step forward” in “these tough economic times.”
We disagree. Dorn’s plan is exactly the wrong approach for tough economic times.
Settling for less from Washington’s students means settling for a lesser future for the state. Our collective well-being depends on high school
graduates whose diplomas mean something, on students who are ready to compete in the world. Math and science are increasingly important factors in that equation.
Dorn’s worried because just 45 percent of 10th graders passed the math Washington Assessment of Student Learning last spring. He says he wants to give students a reasonable chance of graduating.
But what real significance does graduation have if it comes by way of stunted standards?
For too long, a high school diploma has been more reliable indicator of attendance than of achievement. The answer is not to assure students that the bar will be set low enough for them to clear, but to assure them they can rise to meet the bar where it’s set.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state Board of Education have made it clear that they are not on board with punting on the state’s responsibility to ensure students have the math and science skills they need.
Lawmakers should follow their lead. It’s never the right time to expect less of the next generation.