A new agreement among the state’s public colleges will raise the value of a couple of Washington’s high-school exams.
The new math and reading exams, which are called Smarter Balanced and will be given to all Washington 11th-graders this spring, will factor not just into whether students graduate, but whether they need to take remedial classes in college.
The new tests are designed to measure whether 11th graders are on track to meeting the new Common Core state standards — a set of learning goals that most states are starting to use. Students who score at the top two levels will be placed directly into college-level math and English when they enter any Washington public two- or four-year college.
That’s a departure from what has happened in the past, and it sends a message that the state’s public colleges and universities support both the Common Core and the assessments that go along with them.
Prior to this year, first-year students at many state colleges usually had to take a math placement test, no matter how well they did on the state’s high school exam.
Half of all community college students didn’t do well on the placement test, forcing them into remedial math for a quarter or two. Those remedial math courses don’t earn students any credits toward graduation, and students who took remedial math or English were also more likely to drop out.
Now, students who attend public colleges can avoid placement tests by scoring at what the colleges and universities consider a “college ready” level on Smarter Balanced.
Earlier this year, the state’s two- and four-year public schools said that students who scored at level two on the Smarter Balanced math test could remedy their low score by taking a pilot course called “Bridge to College Mathematics.” If they got at least a B in the class, they would be admitted into college-level math.