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Federal Way schools want more minorities in rigorous classes

For Federal Way students, there is a change coming to class registration.

The district is debating on changing the current policy of "opt in" for more challenging classes. Instead, students who meet the standard on state testing will automatically be put in the more rigorous classes such as AP, IB or Cambridge. State testing has involved the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), but will soon use the "Measurements of Student Progress" for elementary and middle schools, and "High School Proficiency Exams" for high schools.

Students who did not wish to take the classes could then "opt out" with parental permission.

The district hopes the move will create a more accurate representation of the district in the challenging classes. Currently, minority students are a small percentage of the students in those classes, but a large population of the school district.

"This will break down the institutional barriers our students face," said Josh Garcia, director of Teaching for Learning.

Garcia said there are hundreds of students who currently meet standards, but are not enrolled in any of the advanced classes.

Students can still opt into the programs if they haven't scored high enough on the tests to automatically qualify.

"Every student, regardless of their color or gender, will get a shot at a rigorous class," school board president Tony Moore said.

The measure had its first reading at the Feb. 9 school board meeting and is likely to be approved in the next month.

If approved, the measure would take effect next year, after the superintendent sets up the standards for advance program enrollment. The new rules would be communicated to parents, school staff and the public at the beginning of each year.

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