Washington took another step toward tougher high school graduation requirements this week, but since the ideas of the State Board of Education require money and approval from the Legislature, it may be a while before these initiatives affect students.
The resolution approved on Wednesday aims for a career-and-college-ready diploma beginning with the class of 2016.
When the new requirements are approved, paid for and phased in, all high school students would:
• Need to earn 24 credits to graduate, including more English, science and social studies than many students currently earn.
• Get more help planning for life after high school and have regular opportunities to meet with school counselors.
• Be required to earn half a credit for health in high school, as well as one credit in occupational education.
• In some cases, be able to meet two different credit requirements with one course.
• Have to take Washington state history and government but would not earn a high school credit for the class.
• Need to connect their culminating or senior project with the goals in their high school and beyond plan.
The required credits do offer some flexibility for students who have different career paths. Some math, science or English requirements, for example, may be met through vocational classes.
Fitness education would not be mandatory because some students may be excused from physical education. Two of the 24 credits could be waived at the discretion of the school district, for reasons including a student flunking an elective.
After three years of surveys, hearings, research and discussions, the board approved what would be the first wholesale revision of Washington graduation requirements since 1985. High school graduation requirements would be aligned with Washington’s minimum four-year public college admission requirements.
State education officials estimate the implementation costs for the new requirements would start at about $3.8 million for the 2011-2012 school year and ramp up to about $67 million a year when the requirements are in place.
The new requirements would add to the cost of school counseling starting in eighth grade and would require more classroom space in some subjects at some schools, more teachers in some subjects and more textbooks.