Hazen High School state representative agrees with stricter graduation criteria

September 3, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Raising the number of credits required for high school graduation will spur students to consider their career path earlier, according to Lorilyn Roller, a senior at Hazen High School.

Roller is one of two student representatives on the state Board of Education, which adopted new rules in July that would strengthen high school graduation requirements by 2016. The new plan, called Core 24, would raise the minimum requirement for a diploma from 19 credits to 24 credits. It also aligns with the entrance requirements for four-year public colleges.

The increase is good for all students, Roller said.

“This will open doors for more students,” she said. “More kids will go to college or become college-ready. This makes the high school diploma more meaningful.”

Roller, also student body president at Hazen, said it’s important for students to begin planning their course work as soon as ninth-grade.

Concern has grown in recent years among business community members that some high school graduates are ill-prepared to enter the workforce or college. The state’s graduation requirements haven’t been updated since 1985.

The new requirements provide a strong foundation in core subjects, giving students the basics. The stricter criteria will allow more flexibility for students, Roller said.

Under the plan, all students would take a stronger set of core academic classes. The classes would include an extra credit each in math and science, meaning three classes rather than the two that are now required; an extra credit of English, raising the total to four; and another half-credit of social studies, for a total of three credits. Students would also take two physical education and health credits and two art credits.

The remaining seven credits would depend on which of three pathways students chose. Those seeking a college emphasis would take at least two years of a foreign language; those opting for a career emphasis would focus on career and technical classes to prepare for a job or apprenticeship. A third option would prepare students both for college and to enter the workforce after high school.

However, a challenge arises in implementing the plan at Renton, Issaquah and the state’s other 293 school districts. The state pays for only five periods a day, but the 24-credit minimum will necessitate six-period days, Roller said.

“That creates an unfunded mandate,” she said. “It may mean students and teachers going to the Legislature for the funding.

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