Math Test May Doom Thousands of Washington Seniors’ Graduation Hopes

Many Seattle seniors preparing for graduation might find out that their plans have to be deferred, The Seattle Times reports. The issue is the state’s graduation requirement that asks seniors to pass either a state-mandated math exam or one of a handful of alternatives to receive their diploma this spring.

This is the first year that the math exam is mandatory for high school students. Although Washington State has had reading and writing graduation requirements in place, the addition of a math exam is an attempt to prove that high school diplomas granted by the state are not meaningless. Yet even as the graduation date gets closer, a growing number of kids have still not taken steps to even take the exam, much less actually pass it.

The state has not yet tallied exactly how many students are in jeopardy. A few weeks ago, about 8,000 students statewide had passed the state’s reading and writing exams, but not math.

Since then, many learned that they passed in the most recent round of state math tests in January, or earned a high-enough score on a collection of math work they submitted to the state. Such portfolios are one of the alternative ways to meet the math requirement.

Still, that leaves potentially several thousand students whose futures continue to be up in the air. In Seattle, about 90 students are in that category – planning for graduation without having yet passed the exam.

For them, this past week has not been kind. Many only found their results on Friday – the day after graduation announcements had been published. According to school staff, a number broke down in tears in front of their parents and counselors when told that they were at risk of not graduating on time.

State reading and writing exams became graduation requirements in 2008, but lawmakers hesitated when it came to math because half the state’s sophomores then were failing the state math test on their first try.

In the past few years, students who failed the math exam could still graduate as long as they kept taking — and passing — math classes.

Not so this year, though some are still trying to get lawmakers to agree to another delay.

Many of Seattle’s high- school principals have asked Superintendent José Banda to ask Randy Dorn, the state’s top education official, for a waiver for students for whom math is the only obstacle to graduation. Banda and his top staff are considering that request, a school-district spokeswoman said.