Dorn Pleased With State Test Results, Wants Changes Made to High School Graduation System

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Randy I. Dorn

Dorn Pleased With State Test Results, Wants Changes Made to High School Graduation System

Statewide results beat our predictions

OLYMPIA – August 17, 2015 — Results from the spring 2015 administration of state tests were released by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction today during a press conference.

Results included:

  • the Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math, taken by students in grades 3-8 and 10-11;
  • the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) in science, taken by students in grades 5 and 8; and
  • end-of-course (EOC) exit exams in algebra I and geometry, taken by some students in grades 9-12.

Students in grades 3-8 and high school have been taking state tests, as required by state and federal law, since 2006. They help identify learning gaps and are used to determine school and district Adequate Yearly Progress. Washington’s high school students are also required to pass certain tests, or state-approved alternatives, to be eligible for graduation.

This is the first year students took the Smarter Balanced tests. “They are the most advanced that students have ever taken,” said Dorn. “They measure students’ progress on the learning standards, so teachers know where students are succeeding and where they need extra help.”

Dorn said he was pleased with the first-year results. “Statewide results beat our predictions,” he said. “That says to me that students are capable of learning our new standards, which are designed to make sure students are ready for career and college.

“It also says that the overall delivery system of the tests worked. Teachers and staff did a great job understanding and applying the new testing technology. I commend all of them for their work.”

Dorn added that some changes are needed. “I believe in the testing system,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s perfect, especially with how it’s used for high school graduation. The Smarter Balanced tests were designed to be an evaluation tool, not a graduation requirement. We still need legislation to focus the use of the 11th-grade tests on proper class placement in 12th grade, rather than as a graduation hurdle.”

Grades 3-8

On average, a little more than one out of every two students in grades 3-8 are on track to be ready for career and college in English language arts. In math, the number is, on average, slightly less than one out of every two students.

Percent of students proficient, 2015























This year’s scores show students’ understanding of new, more rigorous learning standards, on new, more rigorous tests. They represent a new baseline and should not be compared to last year’s MSP.

It would be fairer to compare first-year Smarter Balanced results to first-year Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) results and to the results from the 2014 Smarter Balanced field test.

An example is fourth-grade math. Fourth graders first took the WASL in 1997; that year, 21.4 percent were considered proficient on the state’s learning standards in math. During the Smarter Balanced field test taken in 2014, 37.0 percent of fourth graders were proficient. By comparison, 54 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math on the first-year Smarter Balanced math test.

 Smarter Balanced 2015, WASL 1997, SB Field Test 2014

Comparisons for other grades and subjects can be done using WASL scores found on the State Report Card and Smarter Balanced field test results found in an OSPI news release.

“Over the years, we saw a significant gain in the percentage of students meeting standard on the old tests,” Dorn said. “I expect the same for the Smarter Balanced tests. As students and teachers become more familiar with the learning standards, they will do better and better on the tests. And they will be more prepared for success, no matter what they choose to do after high school.”

The science Measurements of Student Progress were taken by 5th and 8th graders. Both grades saw drops in proficiency: For fifth grade, 63 percent were proficient (down from 66 percent in 2014); for 8th grade, 60 percent were proficient (down from 67 percent in 2014).

High School

Students in the Class of 2017 took the Smarter Balanced ELA test to satisfy one of their assessment graduation requirements. They performed very well. About 74 percent of those students met the career- and college-ready (CCR) standard. That means those students won’t have to take the Smarter Balanced ELA test as juniors.

On August 5, the State Board of Education set an exit exam threshold score, which is slightly lower than the CCR standard. This exit exam threshold score is what students need to earn on the test to be eligible for high school graduation. About 80 percent of 10th graders met the exit exam standard.

Among students taking math EOCs, 57 passed the algebra I/integrated math I test and 68 percent passed the geometry/integrated math II test.

Spring 2015 was the first time 11th graders have been required to take state tests. The percentage of students in the Class of 2016 who met standard in ELA and math is significantly lower than for other grades.

Percent of students proficient, 2015








No more than 5 percent of students refused to take the tests in grades 3-8 and 10. For 11th graders, though, the refusal rate was nearly 50 percent.

Assessments as Graduation Requirements

During the 2015 legislative session, Dorn introduced a bill that would have allowed students who don’t meet the CCR standard on the 11th-grade Smarter Balanced tests to graduate after taking classes during their senior year designed to help them in the areas where they need it.

“The new standards are more rigorous than the old ones, and the new test was not designed as an exit exam,” he said. “We need a better, smarter alternative for students’ senior year, rather than the current collection of evidence system.

“The Smarter Balanced tests are important, and will continue to be, even if they aren’t used as a graduation requirement. Students who do well on the tests won’t have to take remedial classes in college, which cost money but don’t earn credits toward a degree. Students who don’t meet the CCR standard have another year to improve their learning. OSPI and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges have designed courses specifically to help those students.”

For graduation assessment requirements, see


Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager

Kristen Jaudon
OSPI Communications Specialist

About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state's 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.

Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at 360-725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.