A new national study says Washington is one of 46 states whose high-school graduation requirements don’t line up with admission requirements for public universities.
But the study doesn’t capture major changes that are on the horizon here.
The audit of state high-school graduation requirements, by the Center for American Progress, looks at coursework requirements in the major subjects and asks whether the requirements to earn a basic diploma also qualify a student for enrollment at a public college.
The report found just four states — Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota and Tennessee — matched high-school diploma requirements with public-college requirements.
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In Washington, however, things are about to change.
In many districts, the graduating class of 2019 will need to earn 24 credits in order to graduate — up from 20 credits previously. Those credits generally line up with the minimum level of preparation required in six subject areas by the University of Washington. (Some districts are delaying the new requirements until 2021.)
Washington’s new graduation requirements do offer flexibility for students who don’t plan to attend a four-year college, said Alissa Muller, spokeswoman for the Washington State Board of Education, which sets graduation requirements.
For example, if a student plans to attend a technical college or join the workforce after graduating, the student might not need to take two years of a world language, which the UW and most other public colleges and universities require for admission.
Students also have flexibility in choosing the types of science and math courses they must complete.
For example, while the UW requires applicants to complete three credits of math that include algebra I and II and geometry, a student could meet the state high-school-diploma requirement by taking two years of integrated math, plus a third math credit — a less rigorous pathway than required by the UW.
The Center for American Progress report says lining up graduation requirements and college-admissions requirements is important “because they create, or stifle, what is possible for students as they progress through and beyond high school.”
The report found that states “leave many decisions up to students, such as which math courses to take to fulfill coursework requirements; without sufficient preparation or guidance counseling, students may take courses that are misaligned with their postsecondary aspirations.”
And it warned that “without sufficient resources to ensure that all students can meet rigorous coursework requirements, problems such as tracking students into less rigorous courses and using nefarious practices to get students across the graduation finish line will persist.”
Muller, with the State Board of Education, said Washington’s new requirements try to strike a balance — steering students toward college-prep classes all through high school, but giving them the option to take a different path if that’s what they decide.
“We strongly believe college is a good idea for all kids,” she said, “and don’t want them to close off their options.”