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Is the 2016 Washington State Legislature the Most Corrupt Legislature in History?

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The Ugly Truth about the AVID Ed Reform Program

How the Highline School District Artificially Inflates their Graduation Rate

10,000 Students Denied a Diploma this year due to failure to pass a high states test
In this article, we will explain why more than 10,000 students will be denied a diploma due to failure to pass a high stakes test in Washington State this year. As we pointed out in our last article, all high stakes tests are unreliable, invalid and unfair to low income and minority groups. https://coalitiontoprotectourpublicschools.org/the-real-reason-the-sbac-math-test-fails-67-percent-of-all-students

These low income students not only failed the high stakes tests but they also failed a deeply flawed alternative assessment process called a “Collection of Evidence.” So we will also explain why the Collection of Evidence (COE) Process fails more than nine out of ten students caught in the COE trap – even though those students often work for a full year under the direction of a certified teacher trying to make their way through all of the land mines in the Collection of Evidence obstacle course. The reason this is important is because members of the state legislature and media reporters have repeatedly claimed that “about 2,000 students in Washington state will not get their high school diploma this year due to the fact that they were not able to complete the Collection of Evidence process.” These 2,000 students have completed all of their other 12 years of required course work – including all of their high school course credits and even pass their Biology and Math courses and even completed a full year makeup “Collection of Evidence” course including jumping through all of the hoops to submit a Collection of Evidence packet. They simply were not good at taking a high stakes test which dumped them into a complex Collection of Evidence process where their Collection of Evidence packet was unfairly rejected by OSPI. This article will show that the COE process actually fails 11,000 students per year. We describe the convoluted nature of this Collection of Evidence process and why it was and is unfair to students who have been caught in this trap. Below is an image posted on the Collection of Evidence website at OSPI which shows some of the information needed to pass the Math Collection of Evidence process. https://www.coe.k12.wa.us/domain/31

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History of the Collection of Evidence Process
The Collection of Evidence process, or COE, was intended to be an alternate pathway to graduation for students who failed one of the State End of Course high stakes tests – also known as EOC. Currently, there are three high stakes End of Course exams administered in Washington state. These are for English, Math and Biology. These End of Course exams are a new and experimental process. The Math EOC was first given in spring 2011 and the Math EOC or Math COE was first required for graduation for the Class of 2013. The Biology End of Course Exam was first administered in Spring 2012, and the Biology EOC/COE was first required for graduation with the the Class of 2015 (this year's class is the first class required to jump over this bar).


Sequence of COE Failure
The exams that fail the most students are the math EOC exam (which fails about 20% of students) and the Biology EOC exam (which fails about 25% of all students who take it). With 80,000 students per year per grade, this means that 16,000 mostly low income struggling students were forced into the Math COE process after failing the Math End of Course exam and 19,000 mostly low income struggling students were forced into the Biology COE process each year. However, according to the State Board of Education, only about 3,000 to 7,000 students per year are able to complete the Collection of Evidence process and even fewer of these pass the COE. https://www.sbe.wa.gov/documents/BoardMeetings/2014/March/03CollectionOfEvidence.pdf


Here is a statement from OSPI explaining how 19,000 students who failed the Biology End of Course exam got whittled down to only 3000 students completing the Biology Collection of Evidence: “According to OSPI, there are approximately 19,000 students in the Class of 2015 who have yet to pass the (Biology End of Course assessment and have only one attempt. Due to previous experience in other content areas, OSPI predicts fewer than 50% will pass in this retake attempt, which leaves a pool upward of 12,000 students. Further, from previous experience with other COE content areas, submissions run approximately 25% of the eligible student pool, which results in approximately 3,000 collections from Class of 2015 students.”

Put in plain English, of the 80,000 students in any given grade, 61,000 passed the Biology End of Course exam on their first try, another 7,000 passed the Biology End of Course exam on their second try and 9,000 students either gave up and dropped out of school before their senior year or were unable to complete all of the assignments required to submit a Collection of Evidence packet during their Senior year. This left 3,000 students who managed to complete the entire Collection of Evidence process.

The collection of evidence process is not an accurate description of what happens when a student fails the Biology End of Course exam and plunges into the Collection of Evidence trap. Once 12,000 students learn they have failed the Biology End of Course exam for a second time, a huge number get discouraged and simply drop out of school. According to OSPI, 8,600 of these 12,000 students came back for their senior year. Here is a quote on this from a recent article: “About 7,600 seniors this year have failed to pass the biology test or meet standards on an assessment alternative, such as a portfolio of work demonstrating their knowledge of the subject area, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.” https://www.theolympian.com/2015/05/29/3750726_biology-test-requirement-still.html?rh=1

Since only 1,000 of the 8,600 students had their Collection of Evidence approved, this left 7,600 who did not have their collection of evidence approved. However, as we will show later, most of these 7600 students had also failed other high stakes tests. Only 2000 just failed the Biology End of Course test.

This means that 3,400 students dropped out before their senior year, leaving 8,600 to take the Biology Collection of Evidence course. Only 3,000 of these 8,600 were able to complete the Collection of Evidence process and turn in their packets of projects.

Shockingly, of the 3,000 students who completed the entire Collection of Evidence process – usually by taking a year long course under the direct supervision of a certified teacher supervising a Collection of Evidence course – only 1,000 students had their collection of evidence packets approved by OSPI. Thus, the failure rate for the Biology Collection of Evidence appears to be 67%. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real failure rate for for all 12,000 students who failed the Biology End of Course exam was 11,000/12,000= 92%.

Here is a diagram showing what happened to the 80,000 students in the Class of 2015:

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As the following chart confirms, there were also thousands of students who failed to meet standards for the math collection of evidence:

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The COE process harms mainly low income and minority students
According to the State Board of Education, “a higher percentage of low-income, English Language Learners, and other minority student groups are served by COEs than the general student population.” https://www.sbe.wa.gov/documents/BoardMeetings/2014/March/03CollectionOfEvidence.pdf


For the graduating Class of 2014, the graduation rate among low income students was 66% and for students not from low income families, the graduation rate was 88%. https://k12.wa.us/LegisGov/2015documents/GradandDropoutStats2015.pdf

There was about 40,000 students in the low income and non-low income groups. But the outcomes for the two groups were dramatically different.

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How the Collection of Evidence Process Fails Students
The collection of evidence process is not a very accurate description of what really happens when a student fails the Biology End of Course exam and plunges into the Collection of Evidence trap. Once 12,000 students learn they have failed the Biology End of Course exam for a second time, a huge number of them get discouraged and simply drop out of school. According to OSPI, 8,600 of these 12,000 students came back for their senior year. Here is a quote on this from a recent article: “About 7,600 seniors this year have failed to pass the biology test or meet standards on an assessment alternative, such as a portfolio of work demonstrating their knowledge of the subject area, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.” https://www.theolympian.com/2015/05/29/3750726_biology-test-requirement-still.html?rh=1


Since only 1,000 of the 8,600 students had their Collection of Evidence approved, this left 7,600 who did not have their collection of evidence approved. However, as we will show later, most of these 7600 students had also failed other high stakes tests. Only 2000 just failed the Biology End of Course test.

This means that 3,400 students dropped out before their senior year, leaving 8,600 to take the Biology Collection of Evidence course. This course appears to be substantially harder than a normal Biology course. It follows a Biology Task Matrixwhich is a spreadsheet with 8 columns and 50 rows involving more than 200 tasks divided into 6 to 8 projects. Completing all of these tasks is worth 56 points. The State Board of Education decided that to pass this class, students must get at least 41 points. Some of these tasks involve taking online tests without the aid of their teacher. So students who are not confident test takers are not likely to get the 41 points they need even if they complete all of their assigned projects. In short, it is not accurate to call this process a Collection of Evidence. Instead, it would be more accurate to call this a High Stakes High Pressure High Failure Rate Course From Hell.

The Collection of Evidence process was so difficult that 5,600 of the 8,600 were unable to complete these hundreds of tasks. This left only 3,000 students who complete all of the tasks and turn in a final packet. Then OSPI rejects 2000 of the 3000 packets and in the end only 1,000 of the original 12,000 students who failed the Biology End of Course exam actually graduated. It is likely that students tell other students through social media that the Collection of Evidence process is nearly impossible – leading to even more students not even bothering to try the process the following year.

Who Designed this Biology Course From Hell?
It does not appear from reading the enacting 2006 legislation that the legislature intended that students who failed the Biology End of Course exam would have to take a course from Hell in order to graduate. Instead, it appears that OSPI and the State Board of Education took it upon themselves to create this Biology Course from Hell. No educational program should be so hard that only a few students can complete it.


Why was the Biology Collection of Evidence Process Set Up to Fail 92% of its Students?
The Biology Collection of Evidence process is clearly a deeply flawed process. It appears to be deliberately set up to be so complex that it will fail nearly all of the students who attempt it. Why would OSPI and the State Board of Education create this Biology Course from Hell?


Could it be that OSPI and the State Board wanted to set up a pool of failing students simply to promote some political agenda? If so, why do the promoters of House Bill 2214 (the SBAC test monopoly acceleration bill) keep referring to 2000 kids not graduating when the real number is 11,000 kids not graduating due to the draconian Collection of Evidence process? There are a couple of possible reasons. First, they are simply repeating a number they heard from someone else without actually researching the real problem. Or perhaps they do not want to use the real number for fear of alarming the public by admitting that the problem is much bigger than previously acknowledged.

What About All of the other students who will not graduate due to a fail to pass one or more of the required exit exams?
There are four required state tests the Class of 2015 must pass in order to graduate. These are reading, writing, math and biology. According to an August 2014 OSPI Press Release, just under 90% of all students in the Class of 2015 had passed their reading and writing test requirement but only 84% had passed their math requirement and only 82% have passed their biology requirement. Only 75% had meet all four test requirements. https://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2014/StateTestScores.aspx


Put in plain English, if the biology assessment placed a roadblock in front of 11,000 students, then the math assessment blocked 10,000 students and the reading and writing exams each blocked 5,000 students. In total, the exam requirement blocked about 15,000 students. Here is what the final breakdown looked like for the graduating class of 2014 (which was the last class that did not need to pass the Biology End of Course exam.

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The above chart shows that about 10% of students in Washington state were not able to graduate in 2014 due to failure to pass a high stakes test and then failure to complete the Collection of Evidence process. This means that in 2014, there were 8,000 students who did not graduate due to these tests.

Most of these students were blocked by failing two or more tests. Adding the Biology COE/EOC failures to this process will likely lead to this number increasing by the same amount who are blocked on the Math EOC/COE. This will raise the total by about 2,000 to 10,000 students.

Here is a progress report on the Class of 2015 that was issued on August 20, 2014:

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These are all of the students who had failed their State exams and were dumped into the four Collection of Evidence Processes. The above table makes it clear that the problem with math and reading and writing failures for the Class of 2015 is nearly as great as the problem with Biology exam failure. So were is the love for the Math and English failures? Why were all of the speeches in the State legislature focused on the Biology exam problem when the English and Math exam problems were blocking nearly as many students from graduating?

Here is how students from low income families are doing compared to the state average:

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The above table, issued in August 2014, indicates that about 53,000 students in the Class of 2015 had passed all four state test requirements before their senior year and were awarded a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA). Another 3500 were special needs and other waiver students that will receive a special graduation certificate. This leaves about 20,000 mostly low income students who were missing one of more test requirements to graduate. Of these 20,000 students, only 8,000 needed to pass just one of the Collection of Evidence processes. Most of these 20,000 at risk students from the Class of 2015 were being blocked by failing more than one high stakes exam. 4,000 students had failed all four tests and needed to pass all four Collection of Evidence courses/processes. 3,000 more students had only passed one of the four state exams and needed to pass three Collection of Evidence processes. Just under 5,000 more students had passed two state tests and needed to pass two Collection of Evidence processes.

UPDATE: On June 3, 2015, I received an email from OSPI with the following table showing the current status of students in the Class of 2015 as of May 29, 2015.

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There are some problems with this table. The biggest problem is that the grade cohort for the Class of 2015 is not 73,605 – it is about 80,000 students. What this table ignores is the 6,400 students who dropped out of school mainly between their Junior and Senior years. Many of these students dropped out after failing one of more of the state required exams. We will call these 6,400 students the “invisible” dropouts. Of the remaining 73,605 who entered their Senior year, 63,377 have passed all four exams. This means 10,228 have failed one or more of the four exams. This was very close to my estimate made a day earlier that more than 10,000 students in the Class of 2015 had failed one or more exams. However, it does not include any of the 6,400 students who failed one or more exams and then dropped out of school before their Senior year. If these students were included, the total number failing one or more state exams would be closer to 15,000.

For the Biology exam, 59,507 passed meaning 14,098 students who started their Senior year did not pass the Biology exam. If you include the students who dropped out before their Senior year, the number of students who actually failed the Biology test was actually about 19,000 students. The same is true for the Math End of Course exam.

Below is a table of the students who failed one or more state tests with the number that passed by an alternate means and the number still not meeting state standards.

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Of the 19,000 students who failed the biology End of Course exam, 5,000 dropped out of school before their senior year and 6,483 passing using one of three alternate routes (grade comparison, passing the SAT or submitting an accepted Collection of Evidence. This still left 7,615 students who did pass the Biology End of Course exam or the Biology Collection of Evidence process or any of the other ways of meeting the state biology requirement.

Where are the 2,000 students that would be helped by passing House Bill 2214?
In the past month, there have been dozens of articles, letters and speeches about “2,000 students who will be allowed to graduate by passing House Bill 2214.” These 2,000 students are in the 7,615 students in the above table. But it is not what you may think. According to OSPI, the 2,000 students originally referred to 2,000 students who submitted a collection of evidence to OSPI during the Winter 2015 submission period and had their Collections rejected by OSPI. There were 3,000 total submissions and 2,000 were rejected leaving 1,000 students to pass. Many of these 2,000 students submitted another Collection in the Spring 2015 Collection submission period and either passed or were rejected again. So a few hundred of the 2,000 students will actually graduate even if House Bill 2214 does not pass. Even more of the 2,000 students would not graduate even if House Bill 2214 did pass because they are also failed the Math End of Course exam and Collection of Evidence process and/or the English Exams and Collection of Evidence processes. Many of these students would only be helped by waiving all four of the unfair high stakes state exams. And many more would not be helped even if all four exams were waived because they are also lacking the course credits they need to graduate. The math is complex. But I estimate that only 1,000 of the 2,000 students referred to in all of the speeches would actually be helped to graduate if House Bill 2214, or another test waiver bill, was passed.


Estimating the Number of Students who will not graduate due to failure to obtain all of their course credit requirements
OSPI claims that they do not track the number of high school students who are lacking credits. I told them that it was time to start tracking that number as it is something both the public and the state legislature would like to know – namely how many students are failing to graduate due to the high stakes tests and how many are failing due to not obtaining all of their high school course credits. In the meantime, we will estimate the number indirectly.


We know that the average on-time high school graduate rate in Washington state is about 75%. This means that about 60,000 students in this grade cohort will graduate and 20,000 will not graduate for one or more reasons. We also know from the previous two tables that more than 63,000 students in the Class of 2015 have meet all four exam standards. Since only 60,000 of these 63,000 will graduate, this means that at least 3,000 students who have passed all four state exams will fail to graduate due to not having enough course credits. 3,000 is about 5% of 60,000 so one in 20 of the normal track students will be deficient in credits.

A previous graph called “12th Graders in the Class of 2014” shows that about 10% of students in Washington state were not able to graduate in 2014 due to failure to pass a high stakes test and then failure to complete the Collection of Evidence process. This means that in 2014, there were 8,000 students who did not graduate due to these tests.

The Biology exam requirement for the Class of 2015 added another 2% to 3% to the obstacles faced by the Class of 2015. Taking into account the thousands of “invisible” students who dropped out of school due to failing a high stakes test, 10,000 students will be prevented from graduating due to failing one of more of the four current high stakes exams. Another 10,000 will not graduate due to failure to obtain their needed high school course credits.

So waiving the Biology End of Course exam is not likely to help that many more students graduate. At most, it would help about 1,000 additional students graduate – leaving behind about 9,000 students who had failed other state tests (3,000 students who failed the math or Englis tests and 6,000 students who failed multiple tests. Instead, what is needed is a waiver of all high stakes exams. This would help about 10,000 students graduate assuming they have meet all of their credit requirements for graduation.

The strangest part of this whole sudden concern about 2000 Biology EOC/COE students not being able to graduate unless the Senate passes House Bill 2214 is that there are over 10,000 GED candidates who will not graduate this year because neither the House or Senate were willing to pass the GED Fairness bill. There was almost no concern in the House or Senate about any of these 10,000 students who will be unable to get a GED certificate because they do not have access to a fair GED test.

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How Can We Solve This Problem?
Some advocate for a comprehensive solution such as passing House Bill 2214. However, members of the State Senate have numerous concerns about adverse consequences to students if this bill passes. It may make a bad situation even worse. For example, some are concerned that House Bill 2214 does not protect the rights of parents to opt students out of high stakes tests without adverse consequences to the student. Others are concerns that the SBAC course is even less valid, less reliable and more unfair the End of Course exams they are replacing. The fact that 67% of students will fail the SBAC test should be enough to scare anyone who cares about kids away from passing a bill that eliminates the three year transition from the End of Course exams to the SBAC exams.


These concerns might be addressed by amending House Bill 2214. For example, a section can be added about protecting the rights of parents to opt students out. The passing score to avoid taking a fourth year of math can be changed from level 3 to level 2. The makeup math course for those who only score Level 1 can be made less intimidating by removing some of the restrictions on the makeup course. However, even after all of these changes, we would be left with our students taking a test where teachers and parents and not even test administrators had any idea which questions any given student was asked and a test so opaque that no researchers were allowed to verify the fairness of any of the 40,000 possible questions. In short, we would be putting lipstick on a pig. It would still be a pig and the pig is the SBAC test. Within a year, there would be calls to repeal House Bill 2214 to get rid of the Common Core SBAC test.

Here is what Senator Steve Litzow, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said as to his concerns about House Bill 2214:
“One reason the Senate didn’t take up Reykdal’s bill is because it makes much more sweeping changes to the state’s testing system than just giving kids a pass on the biology exam... Reykdal’s measure would also speed up the state’s transition to tests based on the Common Core State Standards, which is another point of concern for Litzow. House Bill 2214 would do away with the state’s current exit exams in algebra, geometry, reading and writing starting next year, replacing them immediately with math and reading tests that are based on the Common Core State Standards. While Washington schools began administering the Common Core-based tests to high school juniors this year, current law requires only students in the class of 2019 — today’s high school freshmen — to pass those tests to earn a high school diploma.


Litzow said it’s unfair to switch graduation requirements on students in the middle of their high school careers, which is why he wants to maintain the three-year transition to the Common Core-based tests. “The concern is, if we move SBAC up earlier, what does that do to graduation and the students who are graduating? Are they ready for the test? Is the test right?” Litzow asked. Even a simpler bill that addresses only the biology test requirement is unlikely to pass this year, Litzow said, though he said the Senate is still looking closely at that issue.

Litzow said one complication is that it’s unclear exactly how many students are not graduating due to failing the biology test and how many may not be graduating for other reasons, such as missing credits or failing to submit the required Collection of Evidence materials. “We don’t know why they didn’t pass or what the issue is,” Litzow said. “We’re having a hard time getting data. That number’s fluctuating.”

https://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/05/29/3815348_biology-test-requirement-still.html?rh=1


Senator Litzow is correct to be concerned about House Bill 2214
It is always unwise to eliminate the 3 year transition period to any new state test when almost nothing is known about the new test – other than the disturbing fact that the SBAC test is certain to fail most of the students who take the new test and no one is allowed to see the test questions. Hopefully, this article will answer at least some of Senator Litzow's questions regarding how many students are failing the Biology End of Course exam, why they are failing the Collection of Evidence process (it is a flawed process) and how these failures related to the bigger picture of students who are also failing the Math and English high stakes exams.


Since there are so many serious problems with House Bill 2214, and since the existing law and assessment system is extremely biased against low income and minority students, a better option would be to pass a simple waiver bill. But as this article shows, the waiver should not merely extend to the Biology End of Course exam as a graduation requirement. The waiver should recognize that ALL high stakes tests are harmful to minorities and ow income students and therefore waive ALL high stakes tests as a graduation requirement The waiver should also end the draconian Collection of Evidence process completely. As long as a student has successfully passed their high school courses, and completed all of their other course requirements, they should be allowed to graduate.

It is simply not fair to waive the Biology EOC requirement but retain the math and English EOC requirement when they both are nearly as big of a problem and harm almost as many students as the Biology EOC exam. Waiving just the Biology EOC and COE would help 2,000 students who failed the Biology EOC/COE but not help 8,000 students who failed the Math and English EOC/COE process.

I was going to write a complete high stakes test waiver bill. However, such a bill already exists. It is Senate Bill 6122 sponsored by Senator McAuliffe with 10 other senators as cosponsors. Senate Bill 6122 would completely eliminate all high stakes tests as a graduation requirement meaning that any student who passed all of their required courses would be allowed to graduate. No student would be denied a diploma simply because they were unable to pass an unfair and unreliable test

This also means there would be no penalty for parents and students who opted out of the state exams. Here is a list of advantages of Senate Bill 6122 over House Bill 2214:

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Hopefully members of the House and Senate will read this report and realize the extreme harm that high stakes tests have unfairly inflict on our students during the past two years and pass Senate Bill 6122. There is no other solution that really addresses the problems of unfair high stakes high failure rate tests. We will keep you posted

Regards
David Spring M. Ed.