There is a war going on against our kids and our public schools. A big part of that war is high stakes testing with tests so horrible that the majority of students who take the test will fail the test – even if the students are well above grade level! The most horrible of these abusive and demeaning high stakes tests is called the Common Core SBAC test. Teachers and parents are not even allowed to see the test questions.
But it would not matter if parents or teachers did accidentally see the test questions because every child is given a different test with different questions based on their answers to previous questions and no one has any idea which students will be given which questions. The SBAC test is not reliable. It is not valid. It is not even remotely predictive of “college and career readiness.” But it makes millions of dollars in profit for Wall Street consultants. So all of our children in Washington state are currently forced to take this test – unless their parents sign a form opting them out of the SBAC test.
Opting out is only possible for high school students because passing the SBAC test is not currently required to graduate from high school in Washington state and will not be required until the Class of 2019. There is no drawback for high school students who opt out of the SBAC test. This option allows parents and students the ability to publicly protest and express their opposition to the SBAC test. This option of Opting Out is the “crack in the wall” of the SBAC test monopoly. Opting out, such as when 100% of the students at Nathan Hale High school opted out of SBAC, allows the light in to expose to the public the ugly corporate takeover of our public schools. This possibility of opting out without adverse consequences will change if House Bill 2214 passes the state legislature this year. House Bill 2214 accelerates the Common Core SBAC test graduation requirement time table from the Class of 2019 to the Class of 2016 – eliminating the current three year transition period.
Here is the exact language in House Bill 2214 changing the timeline for the SBAC test monopoly from 2019 to 2016: “Beginning with the graduating class of ((2019)) 2016, a student who ((meets the state standards)) earns a score of level 3 or level 4 on the high school English language arts assessment developed with the multistate consortium (SBAC -ELA) and the comprehensive mathematics assessment developed with the multistate consortium (SBAC-MATH) shall earn a certificate of academic achievement.”
Notice that the year 2019 is replaced with the year 2016 and that “meets the state standards” is replaced with a specific score of level 3 or 4 on the SBAC English and Math tests – a score that only 33% of Washington high school students can achieve.
House Bill 2214 is being deceptively sold to parents and teachers as a bill to reduce the number of high stakes tests a student has to take and to reduce the number of students who fail to graduate from high school. The way House Bill 2214 reduces the number of tests is by eliminating the current End of Course exams, which have been normed so that 80% of all students can pass them. The SBAC exams that replace these End of Course exams are unfairly normed so that only 33% of high school students can pass them. Obviously, moving from a graduation requirement test that flunks 20% of all students to one that flunks 67% of all students will greatly increase the number of kids who fail to graduate. So how can the promoters of the SBAC scam claim that SBAC will reduce rather than increase the drop out rate???
Politicians who advocate for House Bill 2214 have assured parents and teachers not to worry. The supporters of the SBAC test monopoly say that the 67% of Washington students who fail the SBAC math test as Juniors in the spring of 2016 will be given a chance to take a 4th year of math during their Senior year and IF they pass that math class, then they still will be allowed to graduate. Parents and teachers have also been told that each school district will be allowed to determine their own make-up or transition math class. Sounds great does it? Local control over public schools!
Sadly, the claims of these politicians are deceptive. Like with most bills in Olympia, the Devil is in the Details. While each school district will be allowed to design their own math makeup course, the makeup courses must be harder than any previous math course taken by the students who failed the SBAC test. Here is the actual language from House Bill 2214: “A course shall be deemed rigorous if it is at a higher course level than the student's most recent coursework in a content area in which the student received a passing grade of "C" or higher, or its equivalent.”
Put in plain English, these locally determined transition courses not only must be much harder than politicians have led us to believe, but they also must meet the requirements imposed by an unelected body called the State Board of Education. Here is the language in House Bill 2214: (A high school transition course is defined to be) “a course offered in high school whose successful completion by a high school student will ensure the student college-level placement at participating institutions of higher education as defined in RCW 28B.10.016. High school transition courses must satisfy core or elective credit graduation requirements established by the state board of education under this section.”
What having the State Board of Education overseeing this process means in plain English is that an unelected group appointed by the Governor really gets to set the rules on the math transition courses – not your local school board. Local control over the math transition courses is just a myth. If House Bill 2214 passes, it is the State Board of Education and not your local school district that will decide whether the transition course is rigorous enough and whether students will get a high school diploma. Here are the current rules for math courses set by the State Board of Education. For the Class of 2016, 2017 and 2018, students are required to complete three years of math during their Freshman, Sophomore and Junior Years (leaving the Senior year open for the math transition course if they flunk the SBAC math test). These required courses are Algebra 1 or Integrated Math 1 for Freshmen, Geometry or Integrated Math 2 for Sophomores and Algebra 2 or Integrated Math 3 for Juniors.
Therefore, House Bill 2214 requires that the 4th year of math be harder than Algebra 2, Geometry or Integrated Math 3. Contrary to what most parents and teachers might assume, the standards for Integrated Math 3 are the same as the standards for Algebra 2 and Geometry. Integrated Math is not easier than traditional math. The math subjects are simply covered in a different order. Therefore, if House Bill 2214 passes, the 54,000 students in our state who are predicted to fail the SBAC test in 2016 will be required to take a math course during their senior year that is harder than Algebra 2. In the normal math sequence, this course is commonly referred to as Precalculus. However the new course may be given a slightly different name, such as Integrated Math 4 or “Transition Math 1” (meaning math intended to transition students from high school to college). But regardless of the name given to the course, the transition math course would be very advanced math and well beyond the ability of at least half of the students who take the course. At least half of the 54,000 students required to take this draconian math course during their senior year would have no chance of passing the course and would therefore not get their diploma.
Put in practical terms, the current End of Course exams fail 20% or 16,000 of the 80,000 students per year who take the EOC exams. About 6,000 of these students then go on to complete a “Collection of Evidence” allowing them to still graduate. This still leaves 10,000 students per year who are not able to graduate due to the EOC exam requirement. House Bill 2214 boasts that it will help these 10,000 students graduate by eliminating the EOC exams. However, this claim is false. Instead of 16,000 students failing the EOC exam, 67% of 80,000 students or 54,000 students will fail the SBAC math exam and be forced to take a 4th Year of Advanced Math. Again, House Bill 2214 requires that the 4th year of math be harder than Algebra 2, Geometry or Integrated Math 3. Again, here is the language of the bill requiring that the fourth year of math must meet the standards of the State Board of Education: “High school transition courses must satisfy core or elective credit graduation requirements established by the state board of education under this section...a higher course level than the student's most recent coursework in a content area in which the student received a passing grade of "C" or higher, or its equivalent.”
Of these 54,000 students, over half will fail the transition math course during their senior year – preventing 27,000 students from graduating. Many students will realize the hopelessness of their situation after taking the unfair SBAC math test in the spring of 2016. They will drop out of school between their Junior and Senior years during the summer of 2016 and not even bother to try to take the 4th year of math.
Prior to 2013, Washington state only required 2 years of math to graduate from high school. So House Bill 2214 effectively DOUBLES this requirement to FOUR years of math to graduate from high school. This would mean Washington state would needlessly impose the most draconian math graduation requirements in the nation on our students.
Why the rush to accelerate the SBAC test monopoly?... To cripple the Opt Out Movement in Washington State
Doubling the number of high school drop outs is not the worst part of House Bill 2214. The primary purpose of House Bill 2214 is not to reduce the number of tests or increase the number of students who graduate. The real purpose of accelerating the time table to the SBAC monopoly is to cripple the Opt Out movement in our state.
The rapidly growing Opt Out movement is a group of parents who do not want their kids subjected to unfair, unreliable, time consuming and invalid high stakes tests. There are now numerous branches of the Opt Out movement all across Washington state. If the Opt Out movement was allowed to continue to grow, it might eventually result in the elimination not only of the SBAC tests but the elimination of ALL high stakes testing in Washington state. This is why the Opt Out movement matters both to the supporters and opponents of the SBAC test.
Currently, this Opt Out movement is growing rapidly because there is no penalty for high school students in the Classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018 who Opt Out of the SBAC test. Students who opt out of the SBAC test will still be allowed to graduate provided they meet their other course requirements – such as passing the EOC exam. However, if House Bill 2214 passes, the Class of 2017 will face a huge poison pill if they fail to take the SBAC exam in Spring 2016. Here again is the poison pill language in House Bill 2214 accelerating the SBAC test requirement from 2019 to 2016: “Beginning with the graduating class of ((2019)) 2016, a student who ((meets the state standards)) earns a score of level 3 or level 4 on the high school English language arts assessment developed with the multistate consortium (SBAC -ELA) and the comprehensive mathematics assessment developed with the multistate consortium (SBAC-MATH) shall earn a certificate of academic achievement.”
High School juniors who opt out of the spring 2016 SBAC test will obviously not get a score of level 3 or 4 on the SBAC math test. They therefore will automatically be required to take the math transition course during their senior year in order to graduate – even if they had straight As on their previous three years of math courses! Given this poison pill, it is likely that few if any students would opt out of the spring 2016 SBAC test. This attempt to quash the Opt Out movement was the primary reason that Randy Dorn requested that House Bill 2214 be passed in the 2015 legislative session. It is because the Opt Out movement is a political embarrassment to Randy Dorn and all of the other Common Core SBAC supporters. It is true that parents of children in younger grades would be able to still opt their kids out of high stakes testing. But the Opt Out Movement in Washington state is led mostly by high school students and their parents. So if House Bill 2214 passes, the adverse consequences for opting out contained in House Bill 2214 would cripple the Opt Out movement in Washington state and the light that is now exposing the drawbacks of high stakes testing at high schools in Washington state would be extinguished.
Can the Opt Out Movement stop SBAC and High Stakes Testing in Washington State?
Supporters of SBAC claim that parents and students are wasting their time by opting out of the SBAC test. They claim that SBAC is here to stay no matter how many students and parents opt out. They claim that SBAC may not be perfect but it is required to get $40 million in federal funding so we will all have to learn to live with it. They conveniently ignore the fact that the SBAC test has cost Washington state tax payers more than $300 million to implement. They also conveniently ignore the fact that both the Washington state Democratic Party and Washington State Republican Party passed resolutions opposing Common Core and SBAC.
Supporters of the SBAC test also conveniently ignore the fact that the US Congress will soon be passing a bill to eliminate the power of the federal government to deprive states of federal funding simply for rejecting Common Core and Common Core tests like SBAC. If we can defeat House Bill 2214 in 2015, then the Opt Out movement will continue to grow and it will become obvious not only that the SBAC monopoly can be defeated, it will be defeated. Any state legislators running in the 2016 election supporting the SBAC test monopoly will run the risk of being defeated. That is why the supporters of SBAC are rushing to pass House Bill 2214 in the 2015 legislative session. It is because they are afraid of the extremely rapid growth of the Opt Out movement.
Test Refusals, Boycotts, Strikes and Walkouts Here in Washington State
Much has happened here in the state of Washington in the past month. First, on April 24 2015, 100% of the 11th graders at Nathan Hale High School opted out of the SBAC test. Then over 95% of students at Garfield High School, Roosevelt high School and Ballard High School opted out of the SBAC test. Over 80% of students at Ingraham High School opted out. Then over 90% of the students at Prosser High School in Eastern Washington opted out of the SBAC test – preferring to face the threat of suspension rather than the indignity of taking the SBAC test. Most recently, 100% of the 10th and 11th graders at Nova High School in Seattle opted out of the SBAC test. There are now dozens of Facebook pages ran by Washington state parents on why and how to opt out of the SBAC test and dozens of high schools in Washington state that have opt out groups. All of this has occurred despite the fact that most parents still do not know that the designed failure rate on the SBAC test is twice as high as the failure rate on the prior MSP test. These are just parents and teachers who are sick of the entire high stakes testing system.
As parents and students opt out of the SBAC tests, more teachers are refusing to give these tests. There were numerous resolutions opposing high stakes testing passed by the Washington State Education Association state meeting on April 25 2015. More than 55 teachers union groups in Washington state have voted to go on “rolling walkouts” not only to protest the lack of funding for public schools but also the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars away from the classroom and into the pockets of Wall Street corporations that make the high stakes tests. The largest of these walkouts will be by the Seattle Education Association on Tuesday May 19 2015. In fact, over 85% of the teachers in Seattle are so fed up with Olympia that they voted to support the walkout.
Also in April 2015, the local chapter of the NAACP issued a statement urging parents to boycott the SBAC test: “We urge families to opt out of the SBAC test and to contact their local and state officials to advise them to abide by the State Supreme Court McCleary decision to fully fund education.”
–Rita Green, MBA; Seattle King County NAACP Education Chair
Then on May 3 2015, John Oliver posted a video against high stakes testing that has now been see by more than 1.2 million people.
What about helping the thousands of students who will not get a diploma if House Bill 2214 does not pass?
The solution to the problem of students not graduating due to failing the End of Course exams is for the legislature to pass a simple bill waiving the End of Course exams and waiving the Collection of Evidence as a graduation requirement. There is no need to accelerate the SBAC test monopoly. In fact, accelerating the SBAC test monopoly will simply double the number of students who will not get their diploma due to failing to pass an unfair high stakes test.
Why would anyone who opposes the SBAC test and supports the Opt Out Movement support House Bill 2214?
Recently at a meeting of parents and teachers opposed to the Ed Reform scam, I was told that several teachers at this meeting intended to support House Bill 2214. When I asked them why they were going to support such a draconian bill, they said that they had met with the prime sponsor of the bill and he assured them that he cared about kids and only wanted more kids to graduate and that this bill would reduce the number of tests kids had to take and help more kids graduate. In short, they trusted this legislator.
There are dozens of reasons for teachers and parents to not trust anyone in Olympia at this point. Here are nine important reasons not to trust our current legislators.
#1... Our state legislature is the first state legislature in history to be found in contempt of court for failing to comply with the Constitutional Requirement to fully fund our public schools.
#2... Despite this fact, not a single member of the state legislature submitted a single bill to supply the billions of dollars per year needed to restore school funding to the national average – other than the bill I wrote, Senate Bill 6093 sponsored by Senators Chase and McAuliffe.
#3... The State legislature refused to fund the Class Size Initiative passed by the voters in 2014. Thus, this legislature is ignoring the will of the voters and the orders of the Supreme Court.
#4... Despite being called into a Special Session, members of the legislature have not even been meeting in order to try to solve the school funding problem. Instead, they have taken a record number of days off.
#5... Despite the fact that teachers in 55 school district have voted to stage one day “walkouts” to protest the lack of action in Olympia, most legislators are not even in Olympia right now.
#6... The legislature has also failed to provide teachers with a voter approved cost of living adjustment in the past 8 years.
#7... Instead, the legislature has given away 655 tax breaks worth more than $30 billion per year including a tax break to Boeing for more than one billion per year and a tax break to Microsoft for more than one billion per year.
#8... The legislature also granted Pearson a stranglehold monopoly on an unfair GED test that in 2014 prevented more than 10,000 low income students from receiving a GED certificate.
#9... Despite this ongoing crisis, which is currently destroying the lives of 200 low income young adults per week, the legislature refused to even vote on a simple bill that would have allowed a fairer option to the Pearson GED test.
No More Last Minute Midnight Riders
On June 27 2013, SBAC supporters waited until the last minute of the final Special Session to suspend the rules, adopt a “striker amendment” and force passage of House Bill 1450 as a “Midnight Rider” which legalized the three year transition from our former high stakes tests to the Common Core SBAC test. Few people in our state had any idea what SBAC was all about. One Republican Senator who voted against the bill said “SBAC was jammed down our throats. No one was told that it would fail two out of three kids who took the test.”
A Democratic Senator who voted against House Bill 1450 said that he personally warned the Governor that “SBAC was doomed to fail because it treated students like robots instead of like unique human beings who deserve our love respect and support.” For more on the strange history of how the SBAC test was adopted in Washington state, see the following article: https://optoutwashington.org/strange-history-of-the-sbac-test-monster
At the end of June 2015, SBAC supporters plan to use similar political blackmail to force passage of House Bill 2214 during the final days of the final 2015 Special Session. But this time, parents and teachers all across the State of Washington will be watching. Politicians who vote for SBAC this time, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat, will be turning their backs on the grassroots members of both political parties - who voted to oppose SBAC by overwhelming margins. They will be turning their backs on thousands of parents who opted their students out of the SBAC test. They will be turning their backs on thousands of teachers who are currently protesting the SBAC test. They will be voting for a test that is known to fail two out of three students who take the test. They will be voting for a test that is known to be developmentally inappropriate, unfair, unreliable and invalid.
We have a better idea. We have introduced a bill to eliminate ALL high stakes tests and restore multiple fair pathways to graduation in Washington state. We will provide more information about this bill in our next article. In the meantime, anyone who cares about the future of our students should urge their legislators to vote against House Bill 2214 when it comes up for a vote at the end of the final Special Session in 2015.
David Spring M. Ed. & Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.
Coalition to Protect our Public Schools (dot) org
Opt Out Washington (dot) org.