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Class of 2010 Maintains 90 Percent Passing Rate
12th graders solid in reading and writing, but math scores remain a concern

OLYMPIA — June 16, 2010 — For the third straight year, more than 90 percent of Washington 12th grade public school students passed the state reading and writing exams prior to reaching their respective graduation ceremonies. State Superintendent Randy Dorn released preliminary results from the first-year High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) at a press conference today.

This spring saw the first step in significant changes to the state testing system, including the introduction of the HSPE and grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP). In addition, about a quarter of public school students in grades 6-8 took the reading and math tests online.

“I fulfilled my promise to change our state tests, to make them shorter and to begin online testing,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “I’m pleased with the progress we made in this first year, but we knew this would be a two- to three-year transition. I want to assure our state educators that I’m listening to your feedback and will make any necessary adjustments next year.”

Dorn’s primary concern remains the passing rate in high school math, which fell below 70 percent – although it’s estimated a little more than 20 percent of 12th graders in the class of 2010 met the graduation requirement by earning two math credits after 10th grade.

This year’s ninth graders, the class of 2013, will be the first to be required to pass all four state exams: reading, writing, math and science. Those students won’t have the option of earning additional math credits if they don’t pass the exam.

“This state has done well with its reading and writing curriculum,” Dorn said. “We’ve got to raise math to that level. But improving our math results continues to be a challenge, especially at a time when education funding is being cut, crucial afterschool programs are being eliminated and class sizes are increasing. We will expect more than 90 percent of the class of 2013 to be proficient in math by the time they reach graduation. I’m not confident that will happen.”

The results from this year’s HSPE are comparable to previous year’s high school results because students were tested on the same learning standards and the HSPE had the same rigor.

Class of 2013 Graduation Requirements

Beginning with the class of 2013, students must earn three math credits to graduate. They will also be expected to pass end-of-course exams in algebra I and geometry, or the integrated math equivalents.

Last year, Dorn suggested steps the state could take to bring more fairness to the math and science graduation requirements, which the Legislature did not adopt. Now, he suggests that the state allow students in the class of 2013 and beyond to earn a fourth math credit if they don’t pass the exam.

“I think the solution is to add back what we’ve had in place,” Dorn said of the credit option. “I strongly believe in state assessments and high standards. I also have no issue with students being required to earn a third math credit. But we still need to be fair and equitable to students and give them more graduation options.

“We are doing plenty of things right in education. I’m proud of the efforts of our students and educators. But it’s my job to be an advocate for those students. And if I see something that is not fair, I’m going to bring attention to it, whether it’s a popular position to have or not.”

Results for the high school science exam and the MSP will be released in late August. Passing rates for the high school science exam have historically been around 40 percent for 10th graders. Beginning in spring 2012, the state will offer an end-of-course exam in biology as the class 2013 finishes its 11th grade year.

Dorn said the science graduation requirement could pose a bigger graduation problem than math for students in the class of 2013.

“Until we start teaching science in our schools on a daily basis, like we do reading, writing and math, I will have a concern about the science exam as a graduation requirement,” he said. “We have to make science instruction a higher priority in all grades if we are going to expect students to achieve and pass an exam to graduate.”

Online State Testing to Continue

A little more than a quarter of students in grades 6-8 took approximately 118,000 reading and math MSP tests via computer this year. Schools were given a five-week testing window to ensure they would have enough time to test all their students. However, by the end of the third week, almost 90 percent of students had already completed their online tests.

“Online testing has been a major success,” Dorn said. “The feedback we’ve received from teachers and principals has been positive. My OSPI staff and our testing contractor provided excellent technical support to schools, and we’ve been told students were highly engaged in online testing.”

Preliminary testing time results show that a majority of students finished their online math and reading tests in 90 to 120 minutes, the estimated time range the state provided. Half of the students finished in 90 minutes; 95 percent in 120 minutes.

Dorn said the goal is to have all students testing online by the 2013-14 school year. OSPI’s updated rollout plan adds grades 4 and 5 to the online testing option next year in reading and math, and grades 5 and 8 in science. High school online testing will not begin until spring 2012.

Classes of 2011 and 2012

Preliminary results for 10th graders in the class of 2012 show that 78 percent passed reading and 84 percent passed writing in their first attempts at the HSPE. Just 43 percent of 10th graders passed the math exam.

For 11th graders in the class of 2011, 88 percent have passed reading, 90 percent have passed writing and 57 percent have passed math in two years of taking the exam.

Students must take a state exam at least once before accessing any of legislatively approved alternatives, such as the SAT or ACT, or the collection of evidence in reading and writing. They also must take the state math exam once before earning two credits of math after 10th grade.


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 School 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 does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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Comparing the classes

Passing rates for the classes of 2009 and ’10:



Additional Information

HSPE Presentation (PDF)
Supplemental Slides (PDF)


   Updated 6/16/2010

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