Freshmen starting high school in the fall will need two more requirements to graduate: taking four year-long English classes and taking at least two AP, IB, College in the High School, or tech prep classes.
The changes, which start with the class of 2016, are designed to ensure that students have college credit and are ready for the next step in their life, whether that’s a university, technical college or career, said Leanna Albrecht, communications director for the Northshore School District.
“Our goal is to provide our students with rigorous and relevant courses so that they’re college and career ready,” she said.
Currently, students at Woodinville and Inglemoor high schools need only three English credits to graduate. Bothell students already need four English credits.
The majority of Northshore students — 70 percent of the class of 2013 — are already taking enough Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College in the High School (CIHS), or tech prep classes to meet the new requirement. That includes 66 percent at Bothell High School, 78 percent at Inglemoor High School, and 80 percent at Woodinville High School.
“We already have a pretty high percentage of students who are taking these classes without it being a graduation requirement,” Albrecht said.
AP and IB classes are advanced courses that follow a rigorous curriculum and culminate in a standardized test.
CIHS classes allow students to take courses at their high school for college credit in partnership with local colleges and universities. Tech prep courses include classes in health sciences, computer science, marketing and more.
Counselors will work with students to make sure students can take courses that align with their personal High School and Beyond Plan. Students may waive the AP, IB, CIHS, or tech prep classes if that fits with their High School and Beyond Plan.
The admissions departments at the University of Washington and Cascadia Community College confirmed that the new requirements would help students at their schools.
“Anything that would lead to students taking a more rigorous college prep curriculum would be good for them in our process,” Paul Seegert, associate director of admissions at UW, said. “If it does lead to those students having a more rigorous curriculum, that will help them in the admissions process.”
Being required to take more rigorous courses might also encourage students to apply to more colleges, Seegert said.
Meagan Walker, director of college relations for Cascadia, said: “We support any programs that will help high school students to be college and career ready.”
She hoped Northshore would let students count Running Start classes, in which high school students take classes at a college, toward the requirement as well.
But Cindy Epps, a parent of two Northshore students, including a high schooler at Bothell, is concerned the changes won’t benefit all students.
For “average” students who want to go to college and would do well in on-level college prep classes — who aren’t ready for AP classes, but for whom tech prep classes wouldn’t be relevant — she thinks the requirements might deter them from aiming for college.
“I think it’s damaging to them,” she said. “The process you have to go through to opt out of it — you risk telling the kids they’re not smart enough.”
But Northshore believes “all kids can,” Albrecht said, and will work to help students succeed while challenging them. The requirements will also ensure students don’t have to take remedial classes in college.
“We don’t want to limit students. We want to help them be successful ... regardless of a language challenge or learning disability, because we believe all kids can,” she said.
Seegert added that requiring students to take harder courses doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get lower grades in the harder class. In fact, it might inspire or enable them to perform better.
Albrecht said the school district hasn’t estimated whether the demand for AP, IB, CIHS and tech prep classes will increase, and if so, whether it will need to hire more teachers qualified to teach those classes.
“We have enough qualified teachers to meet the current demand,” she said, adding that Northshore will hire more teachers if needed.