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Students Must Be Ready for What Comes Next

Lisa Jiménez - League of Education VotersBy Lisabeth Jiménez
Guest Blogger

I am currently a sophomore at Columbia Basin College, where I major in political science with a minor in education. I attended two separate high schools before graduating in 2015: Delta High School, the first STEM high school in Washington, for 9th through 10th grade, and then I transferred to Pasco Senior High School to participate in Running Start, a program that allows students in the 11th and 12th grade to attend college courses to earn an Associate in Arts degree upon graduation from high school.

In high school I was a C/D average student. A few Bs made an appearance from time to time but not consistently, and it wasn’t from a lack of trying. My friends were A+ students, always making the honor roll, and they didn’t have to try. I would stay up till 4 o’clock in the morning, sometimes pulling all-nighters to finish assignments and group projects because of short deadlines and multiple assignments coming due at the same time. My friends’ teachers gave them small assignments and did not thoroughly check them to see if they were finished. Because of pre-conceived expectations, if their teachers saw writing on the papers turned in, they would give my friends an A for assignments because they were “completed.” My friends did not know how to find the slope of a y-intercept, learn the stages of mitosis, or master writing an analysis essay, but I did.

When it came to state testing, the teachers at Delta were committed to making sure we all passed because they wanted to see us walk across the graduation stage in the spring. I studied night and day for these exams, while some of my friends asked their parents to opt them out of the testing. I graduated with a 2.45 grade point average, passed all my state exams, and earned 24 high school credits and 33 college credits. My friends who did not take the tests graduated with a 4.0 average, 22 high school credits, and opted out of all the state exams because they simply did not want to take them. They had the opportunity to apply to any college they wished because of their grade point average, but my GPA did not provide the same opportunity.

They applied to universities and local colleges, and were accepted. The next step was to take their placement tests to determine which courses they would be eligible to take. Unfortunately, they received low test scores that placed them at the beginning of a long road of remedial college courses. How could a 4.0 student not be college ready? When I took my placement tests for Running Start, I placed right at the English 101/102 level and Math 99. I, a 2.45 GPA graduate and a C/D average student, was able to take college courses while still in high school.

Grades should not be the only thing to determine whether a student is college ready, because they are just a letter that some teachers give if the student behaves well.  State exams were not created only to burden students, as some tend to believe. The exams are there to ensure we are ready for the next step in our lives. After doing the required work in high school, I was able to pass all my state exams. I had to take a year off to work to save money for college, and I’m now more than halfway finished with my Bachelor’s degree.

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Higher Education

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State Board of Education must become a leading voice for all students

The Washington State Board of Education today fell short of setting a clear path for our state toward all students graduating high school prepared for their next step in life.

The State Board of Education’s leadership has been essential in trying to realize their own vision of “a high quality education system that prepares all students for college, career, and life.” Nine years ago, they recommended that the state update high school graduation requirements to 24 credits, and they saw that recommendation to fruition in 2014 despite opposition and numerous obstacles along the way.

Unfortunately, the State Board made no progress today toward moving the system forward in preparing all students for college, career, and life. They took an “equal impact” approach on setting the English Language Arts (ELA) cut score. Due to poor-quality data, the State Board was unable to take an “equal impact” approach in setting the score for Math, so they set a correlating score based on the ELA cut score. This approach maintains the status quo without setting any specific date by which the cut score would be set at a college and career ready level or a plan to get there.

The League of Education Voters acknowledges the complexity of setting graduation cut scores. We also believe that decisions based on maintaining an “equal impact” without any date or plan to get to the goal of college and career readiness for all students is not good enough for our students, nor is it leading with a sense of urgency for the approximately 50 percent of high school graduates who enter postsecondary in remedial courses.

A transition period is understandable. A transition period with no end date or specific plan does not serve our students’ best interests, nor does it display any urgency for closing our state’s growing achievement and opportunity gaps.

Earlier this summer, we called on the State Board again to hold our system to a higher standard. We asked that they set the graduation cut score at the level of college and career readiness—level 3—in order to bring our state closer to their vision, or at least set a date for when this goal might be achieved. They started to do so in a draft position statement but postponed that action and any related discussion until the September meeting.

We look to the State Board to once again to become a leading voice for all students, and the League of Education Voters is committed to working with them and others going forward to ensure that the State Board achieves its vision of preparing all students for college, career, and life.

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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A smart, balanced approach for all students

Community and technical colleges throughout Washington, as well as the six public four-year institutions, are partnering to use students’ high school Smarter Balanced assessment scores in fall 2016 in lieu of their campus-based placement tests.

Students who score at levels 3 or 4 on their 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessments will be able to enroll directly in credit-bearing college courses. Students who score below those levels will be enrolled in newly designed “Bridge to College” courses that will quickly raise them to college-level readiness rather than taking remedial courses that effectively copy high school courses they have already taken. These new courses are being collaboratively designed and developed by higher education faculty, high school teachers, and curriculum specialists from around the state.

“The Smarter Balanced Assessments will give 11th graders a much-needed heads up on whether they’ll place into math and English language courses in college, or whether they’re headed toward remedial classes instead,” said Bill Moore, director of K–12 partnerships at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “Students then have their senior year to either catch up or take even more advanced classes.” (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Higher Education, LEV News

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