Unpacking the Delinking State Test Bill (HB1599)

  • Elementary
  • Higher Education
  • High School
  • Middle School
Mary Moser

House Bill 1599, have you heard about it? You may have heard celebrations.  You may have heard grumblings.  You may have heard confusion.  In the midst of testing season, House Bill 1599 passed through legislation and was sent off to Governor Inslee’s desk for signing, who signed it May 7, 2019.

1599 concerns the delinking of state testing and graduation for high school students in the state of Washington.  Wherever you may fall on the debate of whether state testing should be a graduation requirement, you need to know this bill and pay attention as it shapes our work within the school system.  Because it’s not really a cut and dry version of de-linking. You should be ready to advocate.

What 1599 Says

It’s a lengthy bill to read, but if you want to know and analyze, the bill, a bill digest, and notes are available to read on the bill summary page. That's what I did.  And, my principal! 

OSPI has also set up a page to talk about 1599 and graduation requirements as new information develops.  Definitely worth a bookmark.

There are pieces in 1599 that aren’t specifically tied to de-linking of the state test such as: moving the High School and Beyond Plan online, access to academic acceleration, and a mastery based learning workgroup.  These ideas seem more nebulous in my mind and will involve a lot more people at the table to develop and articulate those plans.

The piece that we can dig into right away concerns the state test and graduation. While many news outlets reported that the state test (Smarter Balanced) will no longer be a graduation requirement for students, that in some ways jumps the gun. It fails to acknowledge that students have been eligible for alternative pathways to graduation prior to this bill. It also fails to acknowledge that the test still is one of those pathways.  This bill, however, provides clarity for the Class of 2019 and their expedited assessment appeal process while also providing additional graduation pathways for the Class of 2020 (such as Bridge to College, dual credit courses, ACT/SAT scores, etc.). Many of those pathways were the alternative pathways for the Class of 2019 and prior classes that had to be applied for and waivered for students to use.  This bill is solidifying them as actual pathways.  Not alternatives.  Not waivers.  Real, live options like Pinocchio. 

The state test still exists for ESSA work, also.  The state test still is the first pathway for 10th graders to meet a graduation requirement and show their career and college readiness.  In fact, there are pieces in the bill that speak to writing a student’s pathway designation into their High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP).  In order to choose a pathway, you have to know where you stand, right? Taking the Smarter Balanced test your 10th grade year will help you either meet the requirement or effectively write your other pathway into your HSBP.  Plus, there’s still the push to get 95% participation in the 10th grade year of state testing for a school’s ESSA requirements.  The graduation requirement didn't get erased, but replaced with a myriad of options, or pathways.

What are the pathways?

You keep talking about pathways, so what are the pathways?  Here’s a screenshot of the OSPI website that details the different pathways:

Screenshot of the OSPI website explaining House Bill 1599 and the pathways for graduation available to the Class of 2020.

What This Means

The biggest change to our practice will come in how we use the state test.  That is, if we aren’t already using the summative pieces well.  If you were around when Smarter Balanced first rolled out, you may recall the lack of participation by eleventh graders in various parts of the state.  The test didn’t count for their graduation.  In fact, they had already taken a different test for graduation.  Participation across the state declined so much, that the State Board of Education used 10th grade scores to set a graduation cut score through extrapolation and data predictions for the classes that would follow, who had only the Smarter Balanced state test for graduation options.

This summer will be a great time for you and/or your school leadership team to consider:

  1. How will you market the test with your students?
  2. Why should your students care about the test? 

I’ve talked before about the idea that students don’t read when they don’t see the adults around them reading.  Yet, we expect them to be readers, when we don’t always model being a reader.  They know what we spend time doing is what we care about.  So, if you want students to care about this test then you have to know and be able to communicate its value to your students. That is a question for your staff.  The easiest answer is that you take this test so that you don’t have to worry about any other pathways or alternatives.  In the end, the test is your first chance to check off a graduation requirement.

It also means that we have a chance to advocate for our students and their high school and post high school success.  Numerous people in testimony (you can watch that too on the Bill Summary page) spoke to the role of the test in graduation.  Their ultimate goal was to not burden students with an impassable mountain due to a variety of reasons why a student wasn’t successful on the state test.

I have started asking questions and advocating at my building level that we honor that testimony.  There was a call to end endless testing of the same students, multiple times a year, on a test that isn’t going to work for that student.  Technically, the test is still a pathway to graduation.  But, let’s start looking at the data.  Let’s start looking at our students.  Let’s start working to stop testing an entire set of students two to three times in a year and a half because they didn’t pass the test the first go around.  Test them once.  If they don’t pass, analyze the likelihood they would pass at a second attempt.  Ask your district data people and assessment department to help with you making an accurate model for prediction.  This is actually the thing next on my list to ask for:  what scores have students who repeatedly take the test received, which testing time did they receive each, and is there a prediction to share with families and students about the likelihood is Smarter Balanced being their pathway?

Of course, offer all possible testing times because a student and their family can always choose to keep testing.  But, I don’t want to be the one choosing for them anymore.  Now, I don’t have to be.

  • College and Career Readiness
  • English Language Arts
  • Graduation
  • Mathematics
  • Rigor
  • Smarter Balanced Assessments
  • WALeg
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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Mary Moser Board

Library Media Specialist at Clover Park School District

I work as a high school Library Media Specialist in the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, Washington. This is my fifth year as a LMS, and my tenth year as a teacher.Before switching to the library, I taught 9th grade Humanities, which is the area that I certified in National Boards in 2013.