State finalizes its plan, 24 credits, and school districts may add more

WHATCOM ­— The Washington State Board of Education adopted new rules, effective in December, related to high school graduation requirements. 

One highlight is that students in middle school taking high school courses can earn credit toward high school graduation if they receive a passing grade. The student will receive a non-numerical grade, but the class can count toward fulfilling high school graduation requirements.

Change was made to the state’s career and technical education course requirements. Students may now take these courses in place of one determined by the district or the state superintendent’s office to be equivalent.

The new rules, adopted Nov. 7, also update the High School and Beyond Plan that is meant to align high school students’ graduation with their postsecondary goals. Career goals must be aided by a skills and interests assessment, a four-year plan of classes taken in high schools, and a resume or log showing work experience.

All students must have a High School and Beyond Plan created in the seventh or eighth grade. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, local districts must have an electronic version of the plan available to all students. 

Beginning with the class of 2020, students must follow at least one graduation pathway option from the state. 

Those options are state assessment, dual credit, AP/IB/Cambridge, SAT/ACT, a transition course, a combination, and a ASVAB or CTE sequence. 

According to the Washington State Board of Education, the graduation pathway options have replaced the explicit link between state assessment and graduation.

The state board of education started outreach in June and had a draft of the graduation pathway rules ready to share for public comment in July. In August, the full chapter of draft rules was sent out and a board meeting was held in September. 

The public comment period for the new rules opened in mid-September, with a public hearing held in late October. 

On Nov. 7 the board considered adoption of the final rules, which will now take effect in December. 

The Career-and-College-Ready graduation requirements were adopted statewide in 2014 to begin with the class of 2019. The requirements include four credits in English, three in math, three in science, three in social studies, two in arts, two in a world language, two in health and fitness, one in career and technical education, and four in electives for a total of 24 credits. 

School districts were able to apply for a waiver to delay the implementation of the 24-credit requirement for up to two years. 

The Lynden School District applied for a waiver in March 2015. That means the 24-credit state requirement doesn’t apply to the 2020 graduating class, but will apply to the class of 2021 and beyond. 

School districts also set their own requirements for graduation in addition to the state ones. 

Currently, Lynden School District seniors need to earn 27 total credits in order to graduate.  Last year’s class needed 25. The class of 2021 and beyond must earn 29 credits total.