Opinion: State superintendent says he’s trying to cancel state assessment of student learning

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center shares thoughts on Superintendent Chris Reykdahl’s comments about ‘the collapsing learning levels provided to public school students.’

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center shares thoughts on Superintendent Chris Reykdahl’s comments about ‘the collapsing learning levels provided to public school students’

Liv Finne
Washington Policy Center

The head of the public school system in Washington says he is looking for ways to cancel the testing of student learning levels.

Liv Finne
Liv Finne

Last week, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal spoke at a meeting of the State Board of Education about the collapsing learning levels provided to public school students.  The latest tests show public schools have failed to educate 70 percent of students in math, and failed to educate 50 percent of students in reading.

Here’s the exchange.

Education Board member Kevin Wang:

“…the numbers [on the state test] are a little bit lower than previous years…I just wanted to get your take on the numbers that have come in?” (Time stamp 55:49)

Superintendent Reykdal:

“…Higher Ed has never believed in them. Higher Ed has never accepted that Smarter Balance [state tests] mean anything to them…this experimenting with tests, Smarter Balance, End of Course, the WASL, that keeps coming and going because it [testing] actually means nothing…

“I am trying to figure out if I have the authority to exit us [from testing] on my own, or if that needs something else.” (Time stamp 1:00:07)

The highest-ranking elected education official in the state says that using tests to assess the true level of learning students are receiving “means nothing” and that, if he decides he has the authority, he plans to cancel state testing.

Meanwhile, recent facts point to deeper problems plaguing public education:

●  The public system has lost 41,000 students, as frustrated parents seek alternatives;

●  The state spends on average over $18,000 per student, more than tuition at most private schools;

●  Governor Inslee and Superintendent Reykdal closed public schools for nearly two years, at a time when most private and charter public schools safely re-opened after a few months;

●  The long school closure caused severe learning losses for all students, with the harm falling hardest on low-income and minority families.

Parents tried to get their schools opened the fall of 2020, and then again during the winter of 2020-21, and then in the spring of 2021.  State officials ignored their concerns.  Now state assessments show public schools failed to provide students adequate learning in math and reading.

This is why school choice is becoming so popular.  The high rate of learning loss shows it’s time Washington joined 32 other states and the District of Columbia in giving families learning options, especially in communities where state assessments show the system is failing to educate students. 

Children should not be trapped in a system that is not providing them with an adequate education.  Yet the Superintendent’s response is to cancel the measure of student learning, not address the underlying problem.  No wonder so many parents are frustrated.

Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.

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8 months ago

“No wonder so many parents are frustrated.”


Whether or not state tests are an accurate reflection of actual student outcomes is a worthwhile topic of discussion.

BUT, the superintendent owes parents and taxpayers an explanation for the failures or an alternative mode for proper student assessment. He might should also have to address why homeschooled students pass the same tests with flying colors and are mandated to take the same tests each year “or else.” Under Washington laws, the home educated must comply and pass the exams or be audited and supervised by state teachers.

8 months ago

Remember, this is the same person that had a meltdown during a legislative meeting about his son failing HS classes during the “distance learning” phase of the pandemic.

The public should have a choice in where to use their tax monies to pay for education for their children. The public school have failed the public for far too long and with no accountability.

Watch – the next thing they propose is some sort of “equity” fix to replace statewide testing.

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