High Expectations

Graduation Requirements

There have been a number of efforts to lower expectations for Washington students. Legislators have proposed eliminating all state testing beyond federal requirements, and eliminating or delaying the end-of-course exams in science and math that are required in order to graduate from high school. There have even been efforts to reduce the number of credits required for high school graduation. Washington spends $17 million/year on remediation and over half of high school graduates have to take remedial math, reading or writing when they get to community college. Only half of Washington’s high school graduates have the credits they need to enroll in a public, four-year university like UW or WSU.

Do you support requiring high school students to pass exams in basic reading, writing, math and science in order to graduate? Do you support aligning high school graduation requirements with college admissions requirements?

Rob McKenna


A no-excuses culture means not going backward on graduation standards. It is important to have standards of educational attainment that students must achieve to graduate to ensure they are ready for college, advanced technical training, or the workforce. It is equally important that educators and administrators – and officeholders – are held accountable for getting these students to that level by graduation. By accurately assessing student achievement, we can better determine if a school is performing up to our standards and if teachers and principals are effectively doing their jobs.

Additionally, we have a lot of work to do to align K-12 and higher education planning. Students need to graduate ready for college, and that means high schools and colleges need to be on the same page regarding their expectations.

Current community college and university remediation rates are unacceptable. One idea is to require all students not taking the ACT or SAT to take common community college placement tests like the Accuplacer and COMPASS tests. It is important for a student to realize sooner rather than later if they are prepared for college-level coursework so corrective action can be taken. 



Jay Inslee


I believe there must be a method for assessing the quality of education throughout the entire state. I also believe we must find a balance between “teaching to the test” and ensuring children are learning skills and gaining experiences beyond the skills needed for the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) or the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE).

Aligning high school graduation requirements more closely with college readiness and admissions is a priority. In today’s world, a 12th grade education isn’t enough to compete anymore. Washington’s industries will need a growing number of highly skilled workers as we enter markets all over the world. The question is, whose workforce will fill that demand?

Washington State ranks among the top 10 states for technology workforce, but has failed to provide the educational opportunities our citizens need to participate in their own state’s economy. We rank 42nd in per-capita spending in education and less than half of our eighth grade students are proficient in math and science. In the 2010-2011 school year, only 76.5% of our students graduated high school on time. We rank 37th in bachelor’s degree production per capita, and we are the biggest importer of individuals with bachelor’s degrees or higher on a per-capita basis. 

In order to compete in the 21st Century, we must offer Washington’s students a strong foundation at the P-12 level, and our commitment to developing a highly skilled, competitive workforce cannot end after graduation. In providing a solid background in P-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education, we prepare our kids to excel in burgeoning fields with rapidly expanding workforces -- fields like Information Technology, Clean Energy, and the Life Sciences -- and empower them to build and grow the next generation of companies and industries that will fuel economic growth and prosperity in our state.

By high school, I want every child to have a plan for post-secondary education, to provide them the vision they need to be successful in life. Every student must develop a career plan that includes the coursework, internships, apprenticeships, college visits, enrichment programs and courses to achieve it, beginning in middle school, such as the work done by Navigation 101.

I also want to further develop relationships between emerging, job-creating industries and higher education – building partnerships in curricula and post-graduate requirements. I want to encourage Running Start, as well as the College in the High School program, which can reduce the time it takes to earn a degree and lower college costs. Programs like that of the Spokane School District Skills Center help students earn dual high school and community college credits while training them in job skills to meet the job-market needs in the Spokane Valley.


Common Core

Forty-five states, including Washington, have adopted the Common Core standards. Washington is also a leader in a 27-state group, called the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is developing innovative, performance-based exams aligned with the Common Core standards to be administered beginning in 2014. The Common Core standards are rigorous and internationally-benchmarked, align with college and career readiness expectations, and allow for comparability among states. The common assessments will allow Washington to reduce costs, better measure analytical and thinking skills through a variety of performance tasks (not just rote memorization), and provide timely data throughout the school year for teachers to use in their instruction.

Do you support Washington’s implementation of Common Core standards and assessments? Will you publicly defend Washington’s implementation of the Common Core standards? Will you support legislation to transition Washington from using the old system of tests to the new Common Core exams?

Rob McKenna


I believe that we can only improve that which we can measure and evaluate. That’s why good data is such an important element in improving our schools and achieving higher levels of student attainment. I’m proud that our state is a leader in developing Common Core standards, and I will continue to support their adoption as governor.



Jay Inslee


Preparing our students for success beyond high school – from a Bachelor’s Degree at the U of W to an apprenticeship in the construction trades – must be the priority in our public schools. Joining most other states in adopting the Common Core Standards, this effort will provide a more accurate assessment of our students and help students develop 21st Century learning tools and skills to accomplish that.

I am also adamant in my conviction that education assessments and standards must also address the particular needs of special education students and must also reflect the cultural diversity of our schools.

I look forward to working with educators, legislators, and stakeholders to implement the standards in the years to come.


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