Dori: Superintendent Reykdal talks mask and vaccine mandates, dropping current state tests, and whether schools are teaching white supremacy
With barely a month until public schools open their doors to nearly 1 million kindergarten-12th grade students across Washington state, changes are coming to public schools, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal told The Dori Monson Show on Tuesday.
Don’t expect mask or COVID vaccine mandates for students this fall – unless a local health authority requires one, Reykdal told Dori’s listeners.
And during extended verbal sparring with Dori, the schools’ superintendent elaborated on the possibility of “exiting” use of standardized testing for students, “outcome fairness” for all students, and placing “cultural awareness at the center of everything” schools do.
“It is a federal law and state law that we test. We will always test.” Reykdal said after Dori questioned a TVW statement the superintendent made about “exiting” the Smarter Balanced Assessment used in schools. “I’ve never said we’re getting rid of testing … My problem is the test we use.”
Washington state began using the current SBA infographic-sb.pdf in 2015. It tests all students in grades 4-8, and grade 10 in math and English/language arts. In 2020, the state dropped its requirement that high school students pass these exams and a science test to graduate. Instead, juniors and seniors were given the choice of passing the Smarter Balanced exam or successfully meeting one of 10 other “graduation pathways” to earn a diploma.
“But 50% of public-school students do not meet basic English testing standards,” Dori cited from 2021 scores. “70% do not meet basic math testing standards.”
Pushing back against Dori’s assertion that this is “failing,” Reykdal said the test is “an assessment whether they (students) took that content area with intensity at the time they took that test. A lot of kids missed a lot of instruction hours due to COVID.”
Still undetermined? Now the state and local districts will interpret the “outcome fairness” wording in a new state law approved from Senate Bill 5044 for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“Outcome fairness? How is that a possibility?” Dori wanted to know.
Reykdal said he expects school officials to manage this in a way that leads to “access to opportunity” for students. Eliminating fees for dual-credit high school/college programs, including Running Start, is one example, the superintendent said.
“It doesn’t mean kids will get the same grade when they end,” Reykdal continued. “It means `keep tearing down things that have that systemically kept some students from accessing opportunities.’”
What about Reykdal’s recent statement that “cultural awareness will be at the center of everything” the schools now do? Dori wondered. Does that mean white supremacy should be talked about in schools? he asked.
“People have a very different definition of that phrase,” Reykdal responded. Addressing oppression for Blacks and others – teaching history of practices “in place to keep other people down and give other people an advantage” is a “genuine historical reality,” the superintendent continued.
Would you also teach Asian supremacy? Dori followed. “More recently, Asians were interred during World War II, which was a horrible atrocity. And yet, as a group, they have achieved at the very highest level.
“There are a lot of white kids who have parents who are drug addicts and are abused … and Black kids whose parents are doctors and lawyers,” Dori continued. “I wish we would treat every kid as an individual. This grouping of people is a horrible way to be educating.”
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