Washington Considering Eliminating State Writing Assessments

The Washington Legislature is currently considering the elimination of statewide writing assessments and making the culminating project optional in a statewide drive for K12 education reform.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, with two Vancouver Democrats, Rep. Tim Probst and Rep. Sharon Wylie having signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would look to replace statewide writing assessments with tests designed for each individual school district by the 2015-2016 school year, writes Justin Runquist at the Oregonian.

The bill would also look to scrap the state’s requirement that high school students must complete a culminating project before graduation, allowing school districts to choose whether the projects will be required or not.

Lytton believes the bill would give school districts more flexibility in a time of economic difficulties.

“School districts are really struggling,” she said, “and we need to do something.”

Lucinda Young, of the Washington Education Association, has announced that the union would support the bill.

However, Tim Knue, the executive director of the Washington Association for Career and Technical Education, believes that a culminating project is a strong resume-builder for students who will be fighting a much harder battle to stand out in an age where more young people are graduating.

He believes that it should stay as a statewide requirement.

“We fear as we move forward, as we throw the baby out with the bath water in some of these bills to help accommodate schools, we’ll be doing more harm than good,” Knue said.

Lytton has heard recommendations from officials on both sides of the argument, but still believes eliminating the culminating project requirement is the correct thing to do.

The idea of integrating requirements like reading and writing is becoming more prominent across the county. Howard County in Maryland is set to scrap traditional reading classes from their middle school curriculum, saying literacy will be infused with other classes.

Under the new schedule, all Howard County middle schools would have a 50-minute, seven-period schedule, as opposed to current variations on a 45-minute, eight-period day.

Literacy instruction would be infused into other classes and traditional reading classes are scrapped in the new state curriculum, said Clarissa Evans, executive director of school improvement and curricular program.

Under the new plan, middle schools will undergo a massive change in curriculum. “Content-area” teachers, who teach subjects like science, social studies or math, would have lessons several times a week that focus on critical reading and response skills, outlined Evans.