The State Board of Education supports legislation de-linking the biology end-of-course exam from graduation requirements. The letter below explains the Board’s position; it was sent to all Washington state legislators by email today.
The Washington State Board of Education supports HB 1950, de-linking the high school Biology End of Course assessment from graduation requirements. On March 24, 2015, the results of the Biology Collection of Evidence (COE) were released. The results were discouraging and require your urgent response. Unless legislators act quickly to pass SBE priority legislation de-linking the biology end of course exam from graduation, over 2000 students in Washington State will not graduate in June 2015 due to this one assessment.
The 33 percent pass rate of the January Biology COE submission demonstrates that the Biology End of Course (EOC) doesn’t work in the current graduation assessment landscape. In July 2014, when similar results (34 percent) were returned for the 2014 COE pilot, the Board articulated a legislative priority to end the Biology EOC as a graduation requirement in favor of developing acomprehensive science exam that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards.
The Board considered the following points to determine the biology EOC and alternatives don’t work as part of a meaningful diploma for Washington students:
- The biology assessment is not based on current Washington standards. The state adopted Next Generation Science Standards in fall 2013; however, the biology end of course exam is written to the old standards.
- Unlike comprehensive English/language arts and mathematics assessments, where struggling students continue taking math and English classes every year after failing to meet standard, students who do not meet standard on the biology EOC generally do not receive any additional formal instruction in biology before they can attempt a retake of the EOC. This means that struggling students only get further away in time from the original instruction provided.
Successful mitigation of either of the two points can only be accomplished by local districts
committing significantly more resources than the state contributes. I have seen it: in addition to being a member of the State Board of Education, I am also a biology teacher who just finished teaching a class of four COE students; all submitted successful COEs in January. They were successful, but with a student/ teacher ratio of 4:1. Twenty percent of my full-time teaching contract was encumbered to the biology COE. It cost my small, rural district $14,000 to remediate these four students sufficient to meeting standard on the biology COE. It also cost the capacity to staff an additional section of third year science, or the ability to continue to use my time as a TOSA to support our district’s transition to the new teacher evaluation model.
Struggling or at risk students (ELL, homeless, foster students, poverty, trauma) are also the most likely to not have extended learning opportunities to fill in the gap, making it essential to reteach the entire subject before attempting the COE. If the legislature fails to act quickly on this issue, Washington’s most vulnerable students will be the most affected. I hope you will read the attached copy of an email written by a student named Michelle. In 7th grade, due to a family emergency, Michelle was sent away from her family home in Korea to live with an aunt and uncle in Washington. The email was forwarded to me by a distraught biology COE teacher the day after the biology COE scores were released. I am attaching it, with Michelle’s permission because it represents an excellent voice-from-the-field example of why your attention to this matter is so crucial.
Please act quickly to de-link the biology EOC from graduation. More than 2000 students want to graduate with their class in June; teachers, science departments, and districts around the state need to focus instruction on current science standards and developing comprehensive STEM science programs.
Thank you for your time and all that you do for students.
Holly Koon, NBCT AYA-Science
Member, Washington State Board of Education
Biology and CTE Teacher, Mt Baker HS
Student’s letter below:
Hi Mr. Pena I was just wondering what would happen if I didn’t pass. I thought I was going to pass COE test so I ordered cap and gown and everything. But I didn’t pass it.. My parent thinks that I’m gonna graduate for sure and they were helping me with college that I’m planning to go. Everything is stuck because the test I have failed. Am I really not able to graduate if I don’t pass Eoc? I know I put my efforts on that task but I wasn’t smart enough to answer it correct. I really want to graduate and just wanna focus on my future. But that test is over everything. I’m so stressed. It’s just miserable that I can’t graduate just because of that test. I have all my credit, and I have decided what college I’m going to go. But that test takes over everything about my future. I don’t know what to do. Do I have to stick in Mariner for one more year if I don’t pass it? Please answer me with a truth 😦