80 Students Won't Graduate Due to Math Test

Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times reported today that there are 80 high school seniors who can't graduate because they didn't pass the two state End Of Course math tests. School principals wanted superintendent Banda to seek a waiver for the students but the superintendent Banda will not. Statewide there are over 3,000 students in a similar situation.


Anonymous said…
For those not passing the EOC, isn't there an option to submit a "collection of evidence" as an alternative? Also, for this year's class, they only need to pass one math EOC. Next year it will be two.


Yes, they can submit a collection of evidence but they better hop to it because I understand it's pretty extensive.

So now Banda is a tough guy? I'd like to see more of this elsewhere.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Banda had this to say via a press release:

- the missing test is either algebra or geometry
- they can use SAT/ACT scores instead if taken by May 17th
- Students can enroll in Summer Credit Retrieval to gain additional skills that may support them in meeting the State Mathematics requirements

o In summer 2013, this program is housed at three sites: Chief Sealth, Cleveland and Roosevelt.

o Classes run from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. from June 24 - Aug. 8.

"Seattle Public Schools strongly believes in high graduation standards for our students. At the same time, we are committed to equity for all students and we are concerned that low income and students of color are disproportionately impacted by the requirement. However, the District will not be asking the state for a waiver of this requirement. Our initial research shows that to waive this requirement would necessitate legislative action at the state level, and OSPI is not entertaining district request for waivers from this requirement."

In addition, in some circumstances, individual students can seek a waiver of the new math graduation requirement from the state.

o Please see http://www.k12.wa.us/assessment/WaiverAppeals/Appeals.aspx for information and rules related to appeals.

Finally, students and families with complaints about the process can contact the Office of the Education Ombudsman at 866-297-2597 or via email at OEOinfo@gov.wa.gov
Unknown said…
Are there statistics on the demographics of the students who will be affected?
They didn't give them out, Mary. I suspect it's probably pretty diverse.
Anonymous said…
Given that the principals asked for waivers because :

"Seattle’s high-school principals had asked Banda to request a waiver for all 80 students, concerned that students of color were disproportionately represented among them."

I think we can assume that it is not a diverse group of student affected at all.

CD parent
Anonymous said…
Can the State and District provide documentation that these students and their families have received adequate counseling about their options prior to this year (the test is administered first in 9th grade asI understand it).

What professional development did the principals and math faculty have in preparation of the collection of evidence process. It is fairly intensive on the teacher and it seems as though PD was rather adhoc or not at all.

Patrick said…
I'd like to see all the members of the legislature take this test.
carol simmons said…
I am disappointed with Superintendent Banda's position, especially given his statement of "we are committed to equity for all students" and his "concern that low income and students of color are disproportionately impacted by the requirement." I assume the School Board will request a waiver of this requirement.

If the students are not granted this waiver, will they be allowed to participate in commencement exercises and allowed to "march" and receive a "temporary" diploma until they fulfill the requirement? In the past a student who was "short" up to two credits could march in commencement if they had a plan for completion of graduation requirements.
Maureen said…
I'm going to take what might be an unpopular stand. From what I hear, the algebra EOC is actually not a terribly difficult test. These seniors, since SPS doesn't offer anything lower than algebra I, have had four years to learn the material. If they are just given a pass on gaining some basic mastery of the material, we are giving our schools and school system a pass on teaching them and/or on helping them show mastery.

Personally, I would prefer that SPS assessed all the kids as they enter 9th grade and taught them at whatever level they are at, starting with addition if we have to and get all graduates to be competent at life skills math, not expect everyone to do algebra. But given this exam is what the state expects, It's up to SPS to put in the resources to get them there. Letting the kids graduate just because they showed up for four years, isn't doing them much of a favor. (Of course, I'm working under the assumption that kids who are profoundly disabled have an alternative path to graduation.)

These 80 kids needed a different math sequence than the one were given. We should be thinking about this type of student all 13 years, not just right before graduation.
Anonymous said…
I love this --- "80 Students Won't Graduate Due to Math Test." How about a headline that reads --- "80 Students Won't Graduate Due to Lack of Math Skills"?

And, since students of color are disproportionately represented among these 80, then the tests must have bias against students of color. Another knee-jerk assumption. All of the state tests go through fairly rigorous bias and fairness reviews.

I'm with Maureen on this one. Students have received ample opportunity to gain the math skills necessary to pass the tests, have ample notice of and access to alternative options, and the teachers/principals have also had ample notice of and opportunity to gain professional development on Collections of Evidence.

Sometimes students just don't gain the skills and knowledge to graduate, regardless of how hard or little they and their teachers have worked.

Finally, students with disabilities have their own alternate assessments for graduation.

--- someone who knows
Anonymous said…
Lord, if we only spent as much time teaching kids math as hand-wringing over all the reasons we don't. Here we go with the bias & disproportionate representation excuses, while meanwhile, 80 students need sharpened pencils and tutors. If only we spent as much time teaching kids as debating and arguing over the perfect way to teach them, test them, and perfect the world around them. We are chasing too many ghosts and boogeymen while 80 more kids free-fall through the cracks. Folks: Much of the problem is us. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
In an ideal world, I would agree with Maureen and WSDWG. However, we're not in an ideal world in SPS. I have tutored at Garfield for 6 years. Just using GHS as an example, though there are other high schools with similar demographics, I can tell you new students enroll at Garfield every week throughout the school year, at every grade level, including senior year. Not only does GHS draw from affluent neighborhoods and house some of the APP cohort, but it also sits in the middle of quite a bit of transitional(section 8) housing and Yesler Terrace. I would imagine most of the 80 kids who are not passing the EOC have not had the advantage of being in the same high school, or even the same country, all four years of high school. Pencils and appropriate math (and language arts) curriculum are great tools when you have a linear 9-12 plan, but I would bet most of these 80 kids fall far from that scenario. I certainly do not have the answer to how to help these kids graduate from high school if they are not able to complete the requirements, but I also cannot completely fault SPS for not adequately preparing them for the test. I have seen GHS bend over backwards to accommodate students who enter unprepared at any grade level. It's an overwhelming task on many levels.

And they do not allow kids to walk at graduation if they are missing anything, ANYTHING, required for graduation, even if they are just a few days away from completing the requirement (eg - a class in running start that concludes after graduation).

CD Parent
Anonymous said…
They have had 13 years of preparation for math test that assesses a minimum standard. If you told me these 80 students came prepared to school everyday, did their all of their homework, and studied, yet still failed, I would be more compassionate. Did they do all of that? If so, I will personally tutor them.

"Can the State and District provide documentation that these students and their families have received adequate counseling...?"
Why does this information fall squarely on the school? Shouldn't a parent or student ask what is expected of them? The 4th response shows that Melissa found the information. Why can't other parents?

"I think we can assume that it is not a diverse group of student affected at all. "
These are not the only students of color in the district. More students of color passed than failed. Are these students affected more by the color of their skin on an algebra test than other?

"if we only spent as much time teaching kids math..."
What makes you think they weren't taught? Teaching and learning are two different actions. I would agree if all 80 students were in the same math classes for 4 years. But, since they are spread across multiple high schools, that's not the case.

-Another Stat
Maureen said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said…
CD parent makes some excellent points. The thing is, a High School diploma should mean something, otherwise we're short changing the kids who worked hard to complete the requirements. As for kids who can't meet them by the end of their 4th year of HS, we should automatically enroll them for a 5th year. Yes, I know, that costs money.
Anonymous said…
There are "super seniors" (5th year high school students) enrolled every year at our comprehensive high schools. Not sure of the grad rate, but imagine it is not terrific.

CD Parent
Maureen said…
My understanding is that "super seniors" have to go out of their way to enroll themselves. I think if a kid isn't on track to graduate they should have to register for next year's classes along with the 11th graders. I don't think that happens now (maybe it varies by HS?).
CS said…
My senior had only taken and not passed the geometry EOC. With an IEP in writing/reading she was just informed that she will now qualify for a waiver to pass the EOC at a level 2. This is a student where it's not about the math skills but is someone who for personal reasons was on a very different schedule from her peers. She fell through the cracks. With increased testing requirements we may very well see even more seniors in this position unless those students are provided the proper guidance and enrolled in the correct courses to prepare for the various exams.

I can say with all certainty, if my senior does not graduate, enrolling in a 5th year of high school would be the most inappropriate option available to her. They should not be automatically enrolled for a 5th year but rather, be presented with available options to choose from. There are some excellent options more appropriate for an 18+ year old adult.
Anonymous said…
It would be better of we could understand more about why these students weren't able to pass the test. I see a lot of assumptions.

There is a societal cost to young adults not getting a high school diploma.

If the student passed all other course requirements, had great attendance, was already accepted to college - and still failed the last time they sat for this exam, is that justice? Does it benefit society? What about young people with conditions which cause them to be unable to take tests well -- that don't qualify for an IEP?

Have you read through the OSPI site for the COE? How about the teacher training site? Maybe you better take a look before you speak.

Anonymous said…
Portfolios are now done as classes. If students aren't attending then the portfolio option isn't great.

I'd also like to point out that if it isn't the EOC it would be the Math HSPE or WASL or another assessment that would dictate if these students are ready to be conferred a diploma stating they have the skills necessary for the full diploma.

80 is a fairly small number. Being one of the 80 must be pretty tragic for some but there will be others who had left the academic track as well.

5th year is very common and there are options such as night school, online school, and a few programs within SPS itself that can work with students who don't meet proficiency. These are generally not students for whom all else is going swimmingly. There will be students who fail every year at every school.

Now that they are aged to adulthood are they willing to do what it takes to pick themselves up and utilize their resources?

Anonymous said…
The kids can't do the requisite math, so what's the number one priority? Getting them to graduate, or finding the right pinata? Good grief. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
Really WSDWG? How do you know they can't "do the requisite math"? Maybe they need a different way to have that assessed. Maybe the language is the bottleneck. We've turned math into language arts, and then lamented that the kids can't do math. Then we go on to say that it's really oh-so-fair and unbiased because some bureaucrat said so. Language is always culturally biased.

Anonymous said…
Um, because they DIDN'T, reader. (Kinda what "requisite" means.)

If they earn a waiver by *alternatively* demonstrating *equivalent* skills, good on them. Meanwhile, you engineers can debate the ultimate building designs while the carpenters build your shelters.

Go carpenters. Swing again.

seattle citizen said…
I know one high school where five of the eight students who didn't pass the math EOC requirementarequirementare ELL, which typically means they've been the country a very few years, and maybe weren't literate in their native languages. The question for these five out of eight is how we crsm ten years of math into two years time. Or do we expect them to stay in school until they get it at, say age 25?
Anonymous said…
I may know some of those kids, or kids like them, Sea citizen. That's why there needs to be alternate ways to the graduation finish line, but ALSO, assurance that these kids teachers know how to help them get there. Parents might be willing to help, but able? The ones I know aren't literate in their own native language, never mind English. How would they know where to turn.

I also know two kids facing imminent homelessness-they're more worried about having a place to sleep than if they'll pass this quarter.

But it seems easy for some to point and blame and say there's no bias and too bad, so sad.

Anonymous said…
"Then we go on to say that it's really oh-so-fair and unbiased because some bureaucrat said so.

Please, reader, show me where anyone (or "we") has ever said anything remotely like what you allege.

Rather, you will instead find approximately 99% of math-oriented commentary arguing exactly the opposite.

Again: Graduates, or Pinatas? WSDWG
Anonymous said…
To give credit where it's due, reader, I agree completely with these statements of yours.

Maybe the language is the bottleneck. We've turned math into language arts, and then lamented that the kids can't do math.

Language is always culturally biased.

I've never supported Discovery based math, and likewise lamented how terrible it is for ELL and low-performing kids, compared to traditional math.

But let's remember this: Discovery Math was supposed to *improve* a bad situation and be more culturally sensitive, according to it's proponents. Yet, it made a bad significantly worse. As always, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

We can help these 80 kids, while improving the lot of the next kids coming forth in their wakes. It's not one or the other.

I'm not sure why every topic devolves into point-counterpoint, polarizing a topic instead of expanding it, but I guess that's the new normal.

Maureen said…
What is the real issue here? Are posters who point out that most of the students who can't pass the Algebra EOC are ELL or have learning disabilities saying that they should just be handed a diploma even though they haven't met the standards, or are they saying that they should get extra support so they can master the material we expect of a HS graduate? (Or maybe that we can't expect those kids to meet standards at all?)

I think we should keep offering a free public education to ELL and learning disabled students until they are "25" or have mastered the material and then celebrate their achievement with a diploma. And yes, I know, that will cost money.

I understand that an 18 year old who has not met standard might not want to stay in a building with 14 year olds, so they should have other options to master the material, but I think just handing them a diploma and saying good luck isn't doing them any favors. Do you think I'm wrong? Tell me why.
Maureen said…
I agree that if math is only a problem because it's too language dependent, then we need to find a different way of testing math mastery for those kids.

WSDAWG, I'm not getting the pinata analogy. At all.
Anonymous said…
I'm with you, Maureen!

Anonymous said…
WSDWG - Really? Are you claiming that NOBODY ever claims that schooling and testing is oh-so-unbiased. Well let's just look over this thread. Here's one example from this thread alone. Can you not read?

Someone who knows (supposedly):
And, since students of color are disproportionately represented among these 80, then the tests must have bias against students of color. Another knee-jerk assumption. All of the state tests go through fairly rigorous bias and fairness reviews.

That pretty much says it all. But, if there's any doubt...

I'm with Maureen on this one. Students have received ample opportunity to gain the math skills necessary to pass the tests,

Anyway. Yes, we all know they failed the "requisite" test. I'm positing that the test is the problem, as are the standards which have become mired in language requirements for no good reason at all... other than to fail people, which appears to actually be a goal. How else would we be able to weed out enough people to reduce our 4-year and elite college application pool to fit the number of seats actually available in those places? We've got way more applicants than seats and what better way to maintain that status quo?

Why can't mastery, proficiency be alternatively met? That's the whole point of this conversation. The alternatives aren't readily available.

Yeah. What's up with the pinata?

seattle citizen said…
Part of the problem IS the tests - they're a separate thing from actual, you know, school. Schools, over twelve years teach all sorts of things and meet individual student needs (intellectual and social and emotional) in all sorts of individualized ways. Yet along comes the state, saying that ONLY these three or four tenth grade level subjects mean anything, and are neccesary for graduation. "Back in the day," schools were trusted to provide an education and determine when a student was ready to graduate. Of COURSE that student would be more skilled in some areas than in others, but such is life. But now the power to graduate had been taken out of the school's hands: Now, mere tenth grade tests in just afew things are the be all and end all, and the tests aren't directly connected to the student's learning experience. Let's ask, what are these tests FOR? Not their puported ideal (measure whether a kid is "ready") but what are they actuslly used for, these test scores?
seattle citizen said…
Sorry about errors above. My recent comments are done on a smart phone and I'm finding it difficult. Hope nobody tests me on THAT!
Anonymous said…
"... are they saying that they should get extra support so they can master the material we expect of a HS graduate? (Or maybe that we can't expect those kids to meet standards at all?)"

This is what *I* am saying Maureen, among other ideas. Support, INFORMATION about the support, alternate options, and yes, maybe the ability to stay in school much longer, and yes, maybe even different standards. And Citizen is right-the tests are biased in ways that we as educated majority race individuals might not understand.

It's not from the test, but my daughter pointed out an algebra problem recently that involved calculations surrounding a family adopting a child from Russia. She got so wound up in the reason a family would fly to Russia to adopt instead of looking at a local foster child that she lost sight of the problem. Now, take an ELL kid struggling to even understand the math, seeing this and wondering how to even approach it. Maybe she wouldn't know people fly to Russia to adopt. Maybe she gets even more confused. And there's your bias.

I don't agree, by the way, that all high school kids NEED algebra to be successful in life, despite what Cliff Mass says. Looking back at my own schooling, we had a track for kids who needed basic math skills without algebra. It served some of them perfectly well. My spouse is a college graduate and did not take algebra in high school. He stopped with pre-algebra and yet he has an advanced degree. He is successful and makes a good living.

There's no reason that cannot become an option again for student who cannot pass this test. It's not "easy" for someone who has extreme difficulty with math, who struggles with English or who is worried about their next meal. We need to accept that instead of insisting all students fit into the same round hole when they are perhaps rectangular pegs.

Anonymous said…
Carol Simmons asks the right question: Students SHOULD be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony if the only requirement not met is the State test.

AND THE STATE ALLOWS DISTRICTS TO LET STUDENTS WALK WHO HAVE NOT MET THIS REQUIREMENT and who will not be receiving a diploma. The graduation ceremony is symbolic. No diplomas are handed out that night. The diploma and walking in the ceremony are two different issues. The State clearly separates these two issues in the OSPI document that was issued to districts last week, stating: “Districts are reminded that rules that are applied to meeting high school graduation requirements are not linked to participation in locally determined graduation ceremonies. Those decisions are made at the sole discretion of the district.”

The State in fact REQUIRES districts to allow certain students with disabilities to participate in the ceremony even though they haven't met diploma requirements. This is called Kevin's Law, and in this law, the State cites as one reason: "(3) A high school graduation ceremony is an important rite of passage for students regardless of their abilities or limitations."

Citing Kevin's Law, ELL students who do not pass the Reading or Writing HSPE get to walk in the ceremonies. When the math EOC requires so much reading and writing, why are students who don't pass the math test not allowed to walk when their peers who haven't passed Reading and Writing do get to walk ? No one will get their diploma without finally passing the tests, we stil have those high standards for a diploma, but they should absolutely be allowed to walk in the ceremony to mark that they have met all of the other requirements, JUST AS THE STATE ALLOWS.

And even worse: Some of these kids actually WILL meet the math standard before graduation. They take the math EOC again in June, but the scores won't be back until August, too late for the ceremony. So imagine if you are a kid who gets their scores back in August saying "passed" but you were barred from your graduation ceremony. You actually DID meet the requirement before graduation, and yet you couldn't walk in this once-in-a-lifetime event because your test hadn't been graded yet. (And a "make-up" graduation ceremony in December is a ridiculous substitute -- we all know that.)

Our district has chosen to ignore the State's invitation to allow students to walk who have not met the testing requirement, and thus is denying students what the State itself describes as a student's important, once in a lifetime rite of passage. Taking away this symbolic ceremony from kids who have met all other requirements but can't pass a test on a certain day is atrocious. The superintendent and School Board should listen to the State and take them up on their clear offer -- Recognize the life-long importance of the ceremony as a rite of passage in this culture, one that is once-in-a-lifetime and cannot be replicated. Withhold the diploma until tests are passed, but let them walk, just as the state allows.

Signed: Let them walk
CS said…
Although my senior may not earn her high school diploma in June, here are some valuable lessons she has learned from Seattle Public Schools:

1. Don't trust those in positions of power to properly guide you.
2. Public systems will fail you. Don't count on them.
3. Deadlines, boundaries, and mandates are likely to change.
4. A high school diploma is not as important as I once thought.
5. Academic tests are to be avoided. They only point out my failures.
6. Academic tests have no value to me.
7. My determination and strength to stand up for myself to those too quick to judge me is more valuable than a diploma.

This is a rectangular student who has stood up and refused to be forced into a round hole. She knows that very well means no diploma. She is okay with that and prepared to move on from Seattle Public Schools and find her own way.
Jan said…
I agree with "Signed: Let Them Walk." That takes care of one element.

I also agree with the idea that diplomas should mean something. As we are assuming --wrongly, I think, but we are, so let's run with it -- that the EOC test has somehow taken a first pass at separating wheat from chaff (kids who know some sufficient level of Alg or Geom from kids who don't), I think that the next step needs to be to figure out, with these kids, whether we got "false negatives" here -- whether there are kids who, because they are ELL, or otherwise language diabled, or homeless and thus distracted with more important stuff, or whatever -- really DO have the requisite level of knowledge; they just didn't pass the test. For these kids, now that we are already letting them walk, the only issue is -- how to demonstrate what they know in a manner that gets them a diploma. Retakes, summer school courses, portfolia, there seem to be lots of options, and only some percentage of 80 kids -- so let's just get this done SSD. This is NOT rocket science.

That leave some OTHER proportion of kids, who really DO still need additional math instruction. For these kids, the issues are more complex. Did we just get them "too late" in the process, but the current materials/approach are fine? Are they kids (like mine) who have language disabilities that make it virtually impossible to learn through a "discovery" type system (who need a very different path (way less language, way more non-language symbols)to mastery?)

But I am dismayed by the number of commenters who are ready to just assume that failing the test means not knowing the math. I have a kid who did great on PSATs in math and English, and great on the HSPE 10th grade math test (he didn't have to take the english part)-- but could not pass either the math or Engligh WASLs to save his soul -- because of the nature of the exam. It was the test. Not the kid.
Anonymous said…
CS, my son was a rectangular peg as well. It didn't happen in Seattle, but he too learned that sometimes it's best to move on. He sounds a lot like Jan's son-a single test kept him out of the correct loop, despite high PSAT's etc. He got his GED and has gone on to be successful in life. I would have liked to have seen him walk, get a diploma, but Seattle SD isn't the only one where there is not always a place for those who don't fit the mold.

Best of luck to your daughter.

Dylan said…

Northwest Liberty High School offers a private high school diploma for students who live anywhere in and around Seattle.

I am was a super senior a month ago until I graduated from NWLHS. A small "school" which actually looks like an office building and is ran by Bob Hagen and a few other staff.

He presented two options, 1.) Do the online math course or 2.) Do an entire math book of financial algebra. I chose to do the financial algebra which is equivalent to 1 year of math. Once completed (took me 3 months) I was granted my diploma and any math exam the state required was simply waived. I also never had to drive there to turn in my completed work, I simply scanned and sent it in via email.

However, this is your best option if you simply cannot perform well enough to pass the state tests. It will cost you some money, but its worth it and it's a guaranteed way to graduate unlike those other way such as the COE (collection of evidence, which is still a drawn out test) and or the Credit Retrieval to gain skills to take those tests which may fail you in the end and is not a 100% sure way to graduate.

I paid around $1150 to take the entire course and that includes everything like the book and two semesters of time. It grants you a few months to complete the entire book of financial algebra. If you are a student in need of a diploma or a parent seeking help for their own struggling super senior than please consider this as a valid and opportune moment to graduate.

One last fact I'd like to mention about Northwest Liberty School is that they boast a normal grading scheme so its nearly impossible not to pass the course. You must get a grade "C" or higher to pass, and financial algebra is NOT a hard book to complete in three months, could be done in one month if one desires.

Any questions ? Email me at burton1305@gmail.com

Thank you,



Northwest Liberty School
Fax: 425.420.1836
13120 NE 177th Pl.
Woodinville, WA 98072

9:00am-5:00pm M-F
Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Anonymous said…
For those families who's kids failed the tests and won't graduate this year, you can still move them on to college, forget that stupid test.

1. If they passed all classes and completed all required subjects then file a declaration of intent to homeschool at the end of the school year. Once filled issue a homeschool diploma and use public school transcript (may need to transfer to your own transcript) and apply to college, both community colleges and universities honor homeschool credentials.

2. If you don't want to do the homeschool route then most community colleges offer high school completion while working towards your associates degree or certification. Seattle calls this program Fast Track and they issue a public school diploma upon completion of your Associates degree or certification. A few WA universities also do similar, EWU is one, you don't need the diploma just transcript.

There is still a way, but you have to move beyond the tradition that we've been conditioned to.
Anonymous said…
Oops forgot to sign this.


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