North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

New 24 credit requirement for graduation will soon take effect


Christopher Andersson

Shawn Stevenson, principal of Marysville Getchell's Academy of Construction and Engineering, left, talks with the James family, from left, Darren, Theresa and Kevin, during a meeting about high school preparation and the new 24 credit requirement for graduation in Washington state on Feb. 15.

Next year's high school freshman will be the first class subject to Washington state's increasing credit requirement for graduation.

State officials had been working since 2006 on the increased requirements and the state legislature passed the bill in 2014.

The class of 2021 (current eighth graders) will be the first group of students in many local districts who are tied to the new requirements.

Graduation in the state only required 20 credits before, but will require 24 (a credit is equivalent to one year of a class).

Superintendent of the Lakewood School District Michael Mack said the majority of the district's students do obtain 24 credits, but not all.

"For those students who find school more difficult, it will add a burden to them," he said. "You can't really fall behind now."

For districts, like the Lakewood, Arlington and Marysville districts, that have six classes each semester, the maximum number of credits in high school is typically 24.

"Obviously it's going to be more difficult for students who fail a class. It's going to make it more difficult for them to graduate," said Eric DeJong, executive director of teaching and learning at the Arlington School District.

Many districts already had higher requirements, such as Arlington and Lakewood who required 22.5 credits, and Marysville which required 23.

However, the state requirements move to more specific classes, such as requiring a third credit for a lab science, an additional credit for art and two credits of world language.

This makes scheduling classes tighter for electives and for those who fail a class.

"We want opportunities of enrichment for electives, for intervention. We want to support our students," said Ray Houser, executive director of assessment and student services at the Marysville School District, during a Feb. 15 meeting about the new requirements.

In response to the tighter graduation requirements many local districts are attempting to provide opportunities in middle school for high school credits.

"We're looking at the potential for credit to be available with some middle school classes," said DeJong.

"We're trying to give students a little bit more cushion," he said.

Marysville has specifically looked at Washington state history classes and Spanish classes in eighth grade that will be able to provide high school credit.

Mack said the district is looking at health and history classes as well.

"These would be teachers who are qualified to teach at the high school level," said Mack. He also hopes to help struggling students get a bigger cushion before going to high school.

"We're targeting those students that we know find school difficult and trying to get them into classes they can be successful at and where they can earn credit," he said.

Marysville students will also be able to earn 0.25 credits for completing their High School and Beyond plan each year, which is already a requirement for graduation in the state.

Some of the new required credits (the two world language credits and one of the art credits) can be replaced with "Personalized Pathway Requirement" credits, or classes meant to specifically prepare a student for their own plans for a career or college.

The Marysville School District is also putting together a task force this year to look at their high school bell schedule.

About a third of districts in the state no longer have a six classes a day schedule, said Houser, and alternative bell schedules may allow students the opportunity for more possible credits during their high school years.

"We are not unlike any other district in that we're going back and thinking about what is going to be the best for our students and their needs," he said.

Houser said a recommendation is scheduled to be made in May this year, but nothing will change for the next school year. If the Marysville School District does adopt a new bell schedule it will not be put into effect until the 2018-19 school year, he said.


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