The Ways and Means committee heard a number of contentious bills Saturday, including HB 2538, which is intended to save money for school districts by reducing requirements that the legislature has placed on them without funding. It was requested by the governor, and most of the savings came from lowering the frequency of audits when there has been no problems. I’m OK with this part.
The Education committee, which heard the bill first, amended it to eliminate the required state assessment of writing skills, and consequently the graduation requirement that students must have proficiency in writing. I am very uncomfortable with this decision, as were a number of other members of the committee during the hearing. We assess core graduation requirements because we believe that what is measured is taught. We should not carry this too far, and many skills are best assessed in the classroom, but we assess core requirements to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn them.
Writing is one of the key elements of the four core learnging goals established in House Bill 1209 over a generation ago (in 1993), the bill that was the foundation of our work on the Basic Education Financing Task Force, and the core of the McCleary decision last month. Almost every single occupation that will provide a living wage for today’s students requires a level of communication skills that would have been difficult for someone even 20 years ago to imagine we should require, and the original 1209 was somewhat prescient.
We do a disservice to young people by not requiring that they do the work necessary to succeed in not just today’s, but tomorrow’s economy. In 1993, HB 1209 stated:
The goal of the Basic Education Act for the schools of the state of Washington set forth in this chapter shall be to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible citizens, to contribute to their own economic well-being and to that of their families and communities, and to enjoy productive and satisfying lives. To these ends, the goals of each school district, with the involvement of parents and community members, shall be to provide opportunities for all students to develop the knowledge and skills essential to:
(1) Read with comprehension, write with skill, and communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of ways and settings;
(2) Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical, and life sciences; civics and history; geography; arts; and health and fitness;
(3) Think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; and
(4) Understand the importance of work and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.