Washington state's two-decade effort to hold students, teachers and administrators accountable for learning is as frustrating now as when it began.
It feels just as it did in the 1990s when it all began. In the 21 years since education reform was implemented by the Legislature, the target for determining success has been moved so many times — in so many different directions — it's left educators confused and frustrated. The public, too, is bewildered.
The frustration continued last week when the results of the most recent statewide standardized assessment exam — the Smarter Balanced tests — were released.
The results show students across Washington are far short of achieving the state goal of 90 percent of all students reaching proficiency in English language arts, math and science by 2027.
A Seattle Times analysis of results from the Smarter Balanced tests taken this spring shows that nearly every group of students — sorted by race, income, disability and language skill — is not making enough progress in any of the three subjects to eventually reach the statewide targets, wrote Seattle Times reporter Neal Morton.
Statewide, 59.6 percent of all students passed the English language arts exam, with passage rates of 48.9 percent and 46.7 percent in math and science, respectively. That's pretty much a wash from 2018 when scores were 59.4 percent, 49.5 percent and 46.2 percent respectively.
The Smarter Balanced tests were adopted in 2015 after the previous tests were all found to be problematic for various reasons. But the harsh reality was that a great many students were not going to pass the tests required for graduation. Parents were upset and these tests became politically untenable.
It started in the 1990s with the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning). But when too many students could not pass the test, changes were made. And then more changes were made. And then it was tossed out and replaced.
And then Common Core was adopted. In 2013, the Legislature mandated the class of 2019 would be the first to be required to pass the new Common Core-based tests in language arts and math to receive a diploma.
Rinse and repeat. And here we are.
At this point, it's impossible to say whether Smarter Balanced will suffer the fate of the previous tests.
But state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who was elected three years ago, is taking the proper approach to boost results. He takes a pragmatic view to the testing process and is focused on finding ways to make students succeed.
Since Reykdal took office test scores have improved, albeit slightly. Let's build on that rather than adopting yet another test and starting all over again.