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State Board of Education goes grass roots on graduation requirements

Representing the State Board of Education at Tuesday’s meeting were Kathe Taylor, Dr. Sheila Fox, Edie Harding and Dr. Kris Mayer. A large crowd filled Bremerton High School’s library to discuss high school graduation requirements.  - Photo by James Mange
Representing the State Board of Education at Tuesday’s meeting were Kathe Taylor, Dr. Sheila Fox, Edie Harding and Dr. Kris Mayer. A large crowd filled Bremerton High School’s library to discuss high school graduation requirements.
— image credit: Photo by James Mange

The Washington State Board of Education began its statewide tour in Bremerton Tuesday, seeking public input on what should be required for a high school diploma to equip our students for life beyond high school. State graduation requirements have remained static since 1985, although individual districts continue to change their requirements.

The state board is working on meeting a legislative request to add another math credit to the requirements for 2012, and the board is investigating whether other changes are needed beyond that. Currently students need to pass 19 core credits, complete a high school and beyond plan, finish a culminating project and meet mastery standards on the reading, writing, and math portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) exams.

“I am really interested in looking at the differences that exist between communities,” said Edie Harding, the executive director of the state board. “We want to know what different communities feel is important.”

“We’re also looking for patterns and themes as well as the differences” added policy director Kathe Taylor.

“What we do now will be important for the next 20 years,” Harding said. “It’s worth taking a step back and looking at what the people have to say.”

Towards that end, the board is holding a series of six meetings across the state to pose their questions. The meeting in Bremerton drew a large crowd, forcing organizers to shuffle seating arrangements in the high school library.

“I wasn’t sure they asked the right questions,” said Dr. DeWayne Boyd, a member of the Bremerton School Board who attended the meeting. “I did feel like some people raised questions that the state board hadn’t considered. For example, if a student has mastered those skills required on the WASL, why do we need to require additional credits after that? Both the No Child Left Behind Act and the WASL assume that every child is going to go to college.”

At the meeting the state board shared information that predicts 77-percent of jobs in America by the year 2014 will require at least some post-secondary education, and that Washington has the lowest rate of students who went straight to college after high school graduation. Still, Dr. Boyd wonders if that should mandate additional credits for all students.

“The positive is,” Boyd said, “it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Department of Education, especially the state board, go out and ask people what they think.”

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