New requirements for Class of 2008
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Starting with the ninth-grade class in 2004, a Northshore student who has studied music before entering high school will have the opportunity to apply those hours of study toward a music credit after passing a competency evaluation. That is the year the new state minimum high school graduation requirements, adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE), will go into effect.
One of the changes in the requirements includes earned credits for alternative learning experiences, such as the study of the violin. The new requirements will move from time-based to performance-based, though the total number of state minimum high school credits needed will remain at 19.
Another example of a performance-based requirement will be the culminating project. It will require students to demonstrate that they can think analytically as well as show they understand the world beyond school.
For instance, if a high school senior has an interest in taxidermy, the student can research the field, work with a mentor, enlist in an internship, go hunting, and study the mechanics and safety issues of preservation while satisfying a graduation requirement.
The culminating project is one of two non-credit requirments that will be added when the new requirements are implemented. The other non-credit requirement asks students to design an educational plan for their high school experience, including what they expect to do the year following graduation.
Among some of the other changes is a physical education class with integrated health issues called Health and Fitness and will replace the current P.E. class. A credit for Occupational Education will be redefined. A student can earn one credit through non-vocational-technical education courses.
Journalism, for example, is currently not recognized as an occupational course, but may be redefined under the new requirements. The arts requirement will no longer be substituted. Presently, a class that seems kind of artsy, like music or wood shop, can be substituted for the fine arts requirement. Credit for the arts under the new requirements will be satisfied in the visual and performing arts only.
According to Lorraine Wilson, Assistant Executive Director of the Washington State School Director's Association, "The purpose (of the revision) is to align graduation requirements with the rest of education reform."
The Washington state Legislature adopted the Education Reform Act in 1993 to establish common learning goals for all Washington students ‹ goals intended to raise academic standards and student achievement.
Education reform is an attempt to prepare all students for life beyond school. The non-credit requirement for an education plan is one of the attempts to accomplish this goal. Wilson said the education plan will help students focus on what they plan to do in high school as well as the year after.
She pointed out that there are parents who might argue that some kids don't get their act together until they're 27. But Wilson sees the education plan as a way to encourage students to give thought to what the last two years of their high school years will look like.
Pat Eirish, Research and Assistance Manager of the State Board of Education, said it took several years for the Board to gather information and input from the public before developing the revised requirements. The Board, she said, held forums in cities all over the state, from Edmonds to Spokane. "We gathered as much information as possible," Eirish said, then added, "We had quite a bit of student involvement at forums." It was at the forums that students told the Board they didn't like the current PE requirement. Some students objected to the culminating project and said they already had a full load in their senior year. But, there were others who said they liked the idea of studying and researching an area of interest.
The new high school graduation requirements were approved by the State Board of Education at their meeting on October 27, 2000. The question the Board used while developing the revised requirements was, "What do all students, statewide, at a minimum, need to know and be able to do in order to graduate from high school?" The premise of the framework was to respect both state interests and school districts' needs for flexibility and local control.
Woodinville High School Counselor Jerry Anderson believes the new graduation requirements will most affect students who don't plan to go on to college. At all three high schools in the Northshore School District that percentage of students is low, all are roughly 20 percent. Last year, there were 391 graduating seniors at Woodinville High School with 49 percent planning to attend a four-year college and 35 percent planning to attend a two-year college.
Counselor Anderson suggests the new requirements are an effort to present more opportunities to the 20 percent who don't have college plans. "The percentage of jobs requiring lower levels of skills is lessening each year," he said of available median income jobs.
Eirish agrees with Anderson's assessment and added that SBE's main goal for students is success, whether they're college bound or not.
"Our goal is improved student learning," she said.
For further information, visit www.k12.wa.us/sbe/ ‹ or if you have questions, e-mail: SBE @OSPI.wednet.edu.