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November 28, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Seattle schools to consider delay on new graduation requirements

Seattle school leaders might soon delay new graduation requirements that would increase the number of credits a student needs to finish high school.

The Seattle school board plans to vote Wednesday on whether to tell the state they need two more years to meet the new requirements, passed by Washington lawmakers earlier this year.  Those requirements are supposed to go into effect starting with next fall’s incoming freshman class, and require students to earn 24 credits to graduate instead of 20.

Seattle can’t meet that mark by then, school board President Sharon Peaslee said in an interview Friday.

Many Seattle high schools operate on a six-period class schedule, she said, making 24 credits roughly the maximum amount a Seattle student can earn in his or her high school career. That means failing or dropping out of even one class would cause a student to not graduate on time, she said.

In order to meet the 24-credit requirement, Seattle could need a new high school schedule with more than six classes a day.  Adding a seventh period, she said, would require renegotiating the teachers’ contract and paying them for the extra time.

“In order for us to do that, it would cost a great deal more money than we have,” Peaslee said.  “I’m not saying it’s not worth it, and I think ultimately we intend to get there. We just can’t get there by next year.”

A two-year waiver will allow Seattle school leaders to figure out how to change its master class schedule, how many new classes it must add, how much more professional development to offer, and more, according to the board proposal for Wednesday’s vote.

The new requirements are designed to  boost students’ readiness for college, said Ben Rarick, executive director of the Washington Board of Education, which proposed the changes. Too many Washington students leave high school unable to handle college-level courses, he said. The state hopes requiring more courses — and more specific types of courses — will help address that.

“We need to hold a high level of expectation for all our high school students, from the moment they step into high school to the moment they leave,” Rarick said. “We’re not graduating nearly as many kids as we want ready for this next step.”

All districts who apply for the one- and two-year waivers will receive them, he said. So far, two districts — Longview and Snohomish — have applied and received waivers, according to the agenda from the group’s most recent meeting. More districts have expressed interest, Rarick said.

You can see the rest of the board’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting here. To sign up to comment on the graduation plan or other agenda items,  email boardagenda@seattleschools.org or call (206) 252-0040, starting at 8 a.m. Monday.

Comments | Topics: graduation, graduation requirements, high school

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