Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Weekly News Conference: Defining the Certificate of Mastery
February 17, 2003

Good morning, and thank you for coming. With me today is Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Terry Bergeson, and state Representative Dave Quall.

I would also like to acknowledge those who join us today from:

· The Washington Education Association
· The Association of Washington School Principals
· The Washington Association of School Administrators
· The Washington State School Directors' Association
· The Washington State PTA
· The Washington Business Roundtable

Welcome, and thanks for your support.

You all know that education is my top priority. Since the landmark education reform legislation of 1993, we have focused intensely on improving the academic achievement of every student in our state. We have watched WASL scores show slow but consistent improvement.

Today, significant improvement in student achievement is not just a goal. It is an accomplishment. And we want to make it a tradition.

A key component of the education reform effort is the development of a Certificate of Mastery graduation requirement, beginning with the Class of 2008. The Class of 2008 is in the seventh grade right now. 2008 is not very far off. Yet we have not clearly defined for those students, their parents, and their teachers exactly what will be required of them for graduation.

Until today.

We have long recognized that we need to refocus the Certificate of Mastery requirements. We need to focus on the basics. We also need to maintain the high standards that we have set for Washington students. Our kids deserve the best education possible.

Accordingly, we are introducing legislation that specifically identifies the content areas included in the Certificate of Mastery.

Passing the basics—reading, writing and mathematics—will be graduation requirements in 2008. In 2010, science will be added.

Passing arts, physical education and health, listening and social studies would no longer be graduation requirements.

This does not mean that these subjects will be neglected. They are also vitally important to a quality education. Classes are required in all these topics. But for the Certificate of Mastery, we need to focus on the basics and hold districts and students accountable for the basics so we will be on track five years from now.

Another area we have energetically debated is assessment retakes. We want high standards. And we also want to make sure we give our students sufficient opportunity to show whether they can meet the standards.

Today we’re proposing that assessment retakes be authorized. Under our proposal, spring retakes would be available beginning in 2004. Fall retakes would be available in 2006. Students would retain the highest result from each content area assessment. Retakes would also be authorized for students in high school completion programs.

Just as there are many ways to learn, there are many ways to show what’s been learned. Given the importance of the Certificate of Mastery, we want to be reasonably responsive to differences in learning styles and testing effectiveness. Accordingly, we are also proposing authorization of alternative assessment, including appeals. Alternative assessment means will be available by September 1, 2006.

Additionally, we must find the best ways for graduating special education students to be recognized for their work. We must find the best ways for English language learners to demonstrate their knowledge and skill. The listening WASL may be the appropriate requirement for them.

Finally, we will require high school graduation plans for members of the 2008 graduating class by September 1, 2006. Parents and students should be active participants in plans to achieve the Certificate of Mastery standards and other graduation requirements.

I believe we can and must help all of our kids meet the high standards we’ve set. They deserve a world class education. The steps we take today will help our students, our teachers, and our schools move closer to that goal.

And now I’d like to ask Dr. Bergeson to make a few remarks . . .

Thank you, Dr. Bergeson. I’d also like to invite Representative Dan Quall to say a few words . . .

Thank you Representative Quall.

I have some other exciting news to share with you this morning. Also with us today is Frank Newton, Executive Director of The Beaumont Foundation of America. The Beaumont Foundation is an innovative philanthropic organization headquartered in Jefferson County, Texas. The Foundation works to make today’s technology and its educational advantages available and accessible to everyone.

The Beaumont Foundation has just announced that our state will be eligible to receive $1.6 million over the next year in grants for brand-new computer equipment. Underserved communities in Washington will be the first recipients of free computing technology and equipment from the Foundation. On behalf of the citizens of Washington state, thank you to Mr. Newton and the Beaumont Foundation for this generous grant.

I’d like to introduce Mr. Newton and invite him to say a few words.

Thank you Frank, and thanks again to Dr. Bergeson and Representative Quall for joining us this morning. And now we’ll take your questions….

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