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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: graduation requirements

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August 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Study: Dropout risk goes up with higher math/science hurdle

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

The decades-long push to boost the number of math and science classes high-school students must take to graduate has raised a question: Will students who already are struggling to meet the current requirements drop out if the bar is even higher?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently suggested that the answer is yes.

Their study, published in the June/July issue of the journal Educational Researcher found that students were more likely to drop out of high school if they had to pass six math/science classes to graduate (11.4 percent dropout rate) than if they had to pass two (8.9 percent dropout rate).

“I think our findings highlight the need to anticipate there may be unintended consequences, especially when there are broad mandates that, in effect, make high school coursework harder,” said one of the study’s authors, Andrew D. Plunk in an article about the study published by the university.

African-Americans and Hispanics were especially affected, he wrote.


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: dropouts, graduation requirements, math

July 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

State board protects 17 core graduation credits from waivers

When the state’s new graduation requirements go into effect in 2019, school districts won’t have as much flexibility as some wanted in waiving credits for students facing unusual circumstances.

The state board of education voted Thursday to protect 17 of the 24 required credits from waivers, essentially limiting any waivers to elective classes.

The 17 protected credits include four in English, three in math, three in science, three in social science, two in health and fitness, one in the arts, and one in career/technical education.

The 8-5 vote followed a lot of debate about what the Legislature actually meant when it passed the new graduation law last spring. That law increased the number of credits that students must earn from 20 to 24. It also gave school districts the ability to waive up to two of those credits in unusual circumstances.

It was clear that each district would be able to define what “unusual” meant, but debate erupted over which credits could be waived.


Comments | More in News | Topics: graduation requirements, waivers, Washington State Board of Education

July 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Debate heats up over flexibility in new graduation requirements

Last spring, the Washington State Legislature voted to raise the number of credits that students must earn to graduate from high school from 20 to 24. The bill passed by a large majority, and the change will go into effect for the class of 2019.

But in the last few months, debate over one part of that bill has risen as sharply as this week’s temperatures.

The law says school districts can waive up to two of the 24 credits in “unusual circumstances,” a term that each school district would define for itself.

So far, so good.

The argument centers on which credits could be waived. While some argue that school districts should be able to decide that, too, others contend that 17 “core” credits  mostly in math, English, science and social studies  should be off-limits.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Excellent Schools Now, graduation requirements, Washington State Board of Education

February 4, 2014 at 5:00 AM

What does our diploma mean? Not much, employers say

Michael Osbun / Op Art

Michael Osbun / Op Art

There is little argument about the facts: Fewer than half of all graduating high school seniors in Washington meet basic requirements for admission to public universities, and hundreds of employers say our high school graduates do not have adequate skills in reading, writing or math — even for low-level jobs.

In Olympia, there have been various responses — everything from requiring more hours in class, to mandating tougher graduation requirements.

“Even carpenters need to pass Algebra 2 if they want to be certified,” says Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, who has sponsored a bill requiring more science, language and career education for high school students.

She joins the state Board of Education in pushing for a 24-credit diploma to boost rigor over our current 20-credit benchmark.

“What is a meaningful high school diploma?” Lytton asked in an interview. “We know that what we’re doing right now is not working.”

Indeed, 58 percent of Washington’s community college students need to take remedial classes before they can even start working toward a degree.


Comments | More in News | Topics: graduation requirements, Washington state legislature