Biology test could keep diploma from thousands of Washington high school seniors


“We’re too stupid to pass. Lower the bar!” Via Spokesman Review

As they walk across a stage in cap and gown in the coming weeks, shaking hands with school officials and smiling for their families in the audience, thousands of Washington’s high school students could be wondering for a month or more whether they will actually get a diploma.

The successful completion of their high school careers will come down to one of two things:

Passing a controversial biology test that they’ve failed multiple times. Or a negotiated deal in the Legislature.

At last count, some 3,300 high school seniors in Washington, about 4 percent of the total statewide, have been unable to pass the biology assessment test, a state requirement for graduation along with separate tests in math and English language.

All three tests result in some failures, and schools have developed alternative strategies to help students meet the requirements. But the biology test causes the most problems. Statistics released in May by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction showed that among seniors who still needed to pass one of the tests, the biology failure numbers were twice those of the English test and four times the math test.

In Spokane Public Schools, 57 seniors have met every other requirement for graduation except passing the biology assessment test. In the Mead School District, it’s 14. West Valley has two students who haven’t passed the test despite taking it as many as seven times.