Personal Path: New High School Graduation Requirements for Washington
Students in high school often lament to their teachers, “But when am I ever going to use [insert algebra, calculus, chemistry, etc.] in the future?” Now, thanks to Washington State House Bill 1599, students are encouraged to tailor their high school courses to their future career interests. The bill passed with a final unanimous vote on April 22, 2019, bringing changes to required courses and testing, while also opening up more options for Washington students to graduate from high school.
Previously, passing standardized tests in math, science and English were required to earn a diploma. Washington was one of only twelve states still requiring these high stakes tests. Some previous tests included the Washington Assessment for Student Learning (WASL) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Passing the SBAC is now just one of many “paths to graduation” as the new law aims to promote “career and college readiness” by recognizing that a single test should not stand in the way of graduation.
Local Vancouver representative Monica Stonier of the 49th district was the bill’s primary sponsor. With the support of parents and Washington Education Association (WEA, Washington’s teachers’ union), Stonier worked to help educate other lawmakers on the need to expand options for students. Original complaints about removing the testing requirement were that a high school diploma would not mean as much as it should to potential employers. Additionally, they argued that most of the high skilled jobs coming to Washington will not be filled by Washington students if they are not proficient in math, science and English language arts. However, parents and educators had long recognized that not all students will need or use advanced algebra or biology in their future careers. They also insisted that a passing grade in core academic classes proves proficiency in that subject.
HB 1599 sought to strike a balance between these concerns.
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