New laws on graduation requirements will offer flexibility to students, educators

Class of 2013 valedictorians from left, Christina Williamson, Isabel Christy, Cory Goelz, Natalie Marques and Emily Morse speak from the stage during graduation ceremonies last June. - Matt Brashears/Special to the Reporter
Class of 2013 valedictorians from left, Christina Williamson, Isabel Christy, Cory Goelz, Natalie Marques and Emily Morse speak from the stage during graduation ceremonies last June.
— image credit: Matt Brashears/Special to the Reporter

The Legislature passed bills on three of the State Board of Education’s 2014 legislative priorities:

The Washington state Board of Education (SBE) offered the following summary on its Website.

• Authorization of a 24-credit career and college ready graduation requirement framework,

• Expansion of math and science course equivalencies for vocational programs, and

• Extended learning opportunities to combat summer learning loss.

Changes in the graduation requirement offers flexibility and direct input from students on how they plan their future.

SB 6552 authorizes the 24-credit graduation requirement framework developed by the SBE, provides flexibility to school districts in meeting the instructional hour requirement, and expands math and science course equivalencies for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

The new requirements give students and their families the ability to explore what is meaningful for them.

“The career and college ready diploma is a big win for kids,” said Board Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. “Establishing a meaningful high school diploma that prepares students for their next step in life, whatever that might be, has been a top priority for the board for nearly a decade.”

SBE explains that the bill sets out a multiple pathway approach providing more student choice in math and science course-taking decisions, seven combined credits of electives and Personalized Pathway Requirements that allow students to explore or focus on a range of fields of knowledge that interest them, and increased opportunities to earn course equivalency credits in CTE courses.

Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano says that the majority of Islanders students already earn 24 credits before graduation.

“I am pleased that more credits will be required now for graduation,” he said. “Three-quarters of our students take more science and math than is required.”

But there will be a need for more teachers and facilities to meet the needs of students who will have to take those extra courses, he added.

We are in good shape he said. “We are already poised to add classrooms and labs to meet that demand for extra classes with plans already in place to expand the high school.”

While the framework increases the credits needed to graduate from 20 to 24, SB 6552 also makes the culminating project voluntary, somewhat offsetting the change.

In addition, the bill provides school districts the opportunity to request a waiver of up to two years to fully implement the new requirements, and the ability to waive up to two of the 24 credits for individual students in unusual circumstances.

Finally, the bill directs the Office of the Education Ombuds to convene a task force to review barriers to the 24-credit diploma for students with special needs.

“The new framework is rigorous and flexible,” explained Executive Director Ben Rarick. “It sets high graduation standards for all students, yet is sensitive to those who many need extra help to get there.”

The State Board of Education provides advocacy and strategic oversight of public education. The board is comprised of 16 members: five are elected by school board directors, seven are appointed by the Governor.


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