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Dorn: Transformation of State Testing System Nearly Complete
State Superintendent says the improvement of math scores is ‘encouraging, but we still
have plenty of work to do’

OLYMPIA — August 30, 2011 — Calling his transformation of the state’s testing system close to complete, State Superintendent Randy Dorn released official scores today from spring 2011 state testing, including from the first math end-of-course exams, or EOCs.

Last spring, all students in algebra 1 and geometry took state exams at the end of those specific courses in June instead of the traditional high school comprehensive math exam two months before the end of the school year.

Students passed the Year 1 exams (algebra 1/integrated 1/makeup) at a rate of 66 percent and the Year 2 exams (geometry/integrated 2) at a 74 percent clip. The EOCs assessed the state’s new high school math learning standards for the first time.

“The results from the end-of-course exams are encouraging, but we still have plenty of work to do to increase our math scores,” Dorn said. “I believe the first-time passing rates are improved from the days of the old math WASL for two primary reasons: teachers have told me our new math learning standards are clearer and students are taking the exams at the end of their respective classes.”

Math scores on the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress increased in every grade, except eighth. Spring 2011 marked the second year grades 3-8 students were tested on the new math elementary and middle school learning standards.

“We have made math a high priority in this state, so it’s gratifying to see the improvement,” Dorn said. “I give our state’s educators a lot of credit. This has been a statewide effort, from the people who wrote the new math standards to those who teach our students. We must maintain this positive momentum.”

All state testing scores from spring 2011 are available at the state’s Report Card site at

Changing the state’s testing system

When Dorn took office in January 2009, he vowed to make “common sense changes” to the testing system. He replaced the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) with shorter, equally rigorous tests: the grades 3-8 Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and High School Proficiency (HSPE).

He also moved the MSP online, a necessary step to take advantage of technology and to create efficiencies in the testing system. Moving testing to computers saves resources by decreasing the printing, shipping and storage of test booklets, and provides a more secure environment.

Dorn said he will work with district superintendents and the state Legislature to encourage more schools to participate in online testing. It is now voluntary. This spring, grade 3 students will take the MSP online for the first time in reading and math. Last spring, students in grades 4-8 took more than 300,000 tests online in reading, math and science, which is approximately 30 percent of tests taken in those grades.

“Technology should play a major role in education,” Dorn said. “Online testing is less disruptive to the schools and the classroom environment. Eighty-two percent of students surveyed said they prefer to take tests on the computer rather than paper. We need to listen to them. If my school is not participating in online testing, I would sure want to know why.”

Dorn said the transition to end-of-course exams is the final major move in transforming the state testing system. EOCs allow for students to feel more confident by testing on material they learned throughout the school year, he said. In spring 2012, high school students will take a biology end-of-course exam, which will replace the comprehensive HSPE science exam.

“We need three years of data on any new exam before we can reliably evaluate results,” Dorn said. “But I feel confident that students will perform better on end-of-course exams.”

Grades 3-8 Measurements of Students Progress

Students in grades 5 and 8 were assessed on the state’s new science standards for the first time in spring 2011. Like the math MSP last year, science MSP scores create a new benchmark and do not provide an apples-to-apples comparison of previous elementary and middle school science results.

Students in grades 5 and 8 passed the science MSP at a rate of 55 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

“As I’ve said before, increasing our students’ proficiency in science is a bigger challenge than in math,” Dorn said. “We teach reading, writing and math every day in all grades, but the same can’t be said for science. We need more quality science instruction in our schools, especially if we are holding our students to a science graduation requirement when they reach high school.”

Like math, Dorn said teachers have provided feedback that the new science standards are clearer and provide better direction on what students should be learning.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
In 2011, preliminary figures show that 1,388 schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), an increase of a little more than 200 schools from 2010. Of that total, 1,181 are in one of five steps of improvement. For districts, 223 did not make AYP and 113 are in one of two steps of improvement.

AYP is part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind. Under AYP, all schools and districts will have a specific – and growing – percentage of students passing the state’s reading and math tests each year. All states are required to have a goal that all students in all schools pass the reading and math tests by 2014.

“Under AYP in 2014, a school or district could have 99 percent of its students at proficiency and still be deemed as needing improvement,” Dorn said. “This is a highly flawed law.

“Congress has had four years to act on reauthorization and has done nothing. I’ve not read one comment from a member of Congress who thinks No Child Left Behind, as written, is good for students or schools. Those who represent us in the other Washington must do their jobs and do what is right in bringing some realistic expectations to AYP.”

Schools and districts that do not meet AYP goals for two consecutive years move into “improvement” status and, if they receive federal Title I funds, face an escalating series of consequences each year they do not make AYP. Washington uses the Measurements of Student Progress the High School Proficiency Exams and end-of-course exams as its tests to measure AYP. (See “What is AYP?” for more details.)

New graduation rate calculation
Next year, all states will be required to use graduation rates for AYP using the same calculation formula recommended by the National Governor’s Association. This will create a more uniform graduation measure throughout the nation.

This year, Washington is reporting two graduation rates on its Report Card site (current and new) as it transitions to the new formula, which requires the tracking of individual students using a state identification number. Many states have seen significant drops in their graduation rates using the new formula, but Washington’s rates decreased only slightly.

Under Washington’s calculation, the extended graduation rate of five years increased to more than 80 percent for the first time this year at 82.6 percent. Using the new federal calculation, that rate is still more than 80 percent at 80.7 percent.

“I support the move to a more uniform graduation rate,” Dorn said. “Under either formula, our extended graduation rate is above 80 percent, and that is tremendous news. We are improving in that area, but that still means one out of every five students is not earning a diploma. I applaud our schools for tackling the dropout issue and believe we will continue to make progress.”


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.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

More information

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015

Assessment Communications Manager
Chris Barron
(360) 725-6032


   Updated 6/12/2015

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