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Graduation Requirements

1. What is the role of the State Board of Education (SBE) in graduation requirements? What other governing bodies are responsible for setting graduation requirements?

RCW 28A.230.090 authorizes SBE to establish state graduation requirements. SBE has established minimum credit requirements, and the High School and Beyond Plan (WAC 180-51-220 for students who enter the ninth grade as of July 1, 2016 or later. Former graduating class year requirements are listed in WAC 180-51-067, and WAC 180-51-068).

In 2019, the Legislature passed HB 1599, which removed the explicit link of the state assessment to graduation, and replaced it with a set of pathway options for graduation. SBE identifies the scores students must achieve to meet standard on statewide assessments (RCW 28A.305.130) as well as scores on all the graduation pathway options that require an assessment. Districts and tribal schools may add local requirements to the state requirements. 
 

2. How do you determine which graduation requirements are in effect for a student?

For credit requirements and most non-credit graduation requirements, students are assigned an expected graduation year at the time they enter ninth grade (WAC 180-51-035). They are held to the graduation requirements of that graduation year regardless of the year they actually complete high school. For example, a student who enters 9th grade in 2012 would be assigned a graduation year of 2016 and would be expected to meet requirements for the graduating Class of 2016. If the student graduates early in 2015 instead of 2016, he or he still needs to meet the requirements for the Class of 2016.

This also applies if a student stays in high school longer than four year. A student who entered 9th grade in 2014 would be assigned a graduation year of 2018. If the student does not actually graduate until 2019, she or he will still be held to the graduation requirements of 2018.

3. How is a credit defined for graduation?

SBE adopted a new definition of a credit in November 2011. WAC 180-51-050 provides:

  1. Grades nine through twelve or the equivalent of a four-year high school program, or as otherwise provided in RCW 28A.230.090 (4):
    1. Successful completion, as defined by written district policy, of courses taught to the state’s learning standards. If there are no state-adopted learning standards for a subject, the local governing board, or its designee, shall determine learning standards for the successful completion of that subject; or (b) Satisfactory demonstration by a student of proficiency/competency, as defined by written district policy, of the state’s learning standards.

Credits can be awarded only for work that is at an academic level of 9th grade (or higher). More information on the state's academic standards and grade level expectations is available on the OSPI website.

4. What are the state-mandated graduation requirement for class of 2015 and prior classes?

The requirements for the Class of 2015 and prior classes is listed in WAC 180-51-056

5. What are the state-mandated graduation credit requirements for the classes of 2013-2015 (students who entered 9th grade in 2009-2011)?

SBE has established 20 state-mandated credits for the classes of 2013-2015. WAC 180-51-066 specifies the distribution of credits required for these classes.

Subject Credits
English 3.0
Math 3.0
Science (at least 1 lab credit) 2.0
Social Studies 2.5
Health & Fitness 2.0
Occupational Education 1.0
Arts (visual or performing) 1.0
Electives 5.5
All Subjects 20

English - 3 credits aligned with grade level expectations for 9th and 10th grade (or higher) in reading, writing and communications, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the English Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's English Language Arts website for more information.

Mathematics - 3 credits aligned with high school mathematics standards and include algebra I or integrated math 1, geometry or integrated math 2, and algebra II or integrated math 3, and may include additional content determined by the district. Students may take a different third credit of math under circumstances defined in WAC 180-51-066. See the Math Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Mathematics website for more information.

Science - 2credits aligned with grade level expectations for 9th and 10th grade (or higher) in physical, life, and earth science, and may include additional content determined by the district. At least 1 credit in laboratory science as defined locally. See the Science Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Science website for more information.

Social Studies - 2.5 credits, that align with state standards in civics, economic, geography, history and social studies skills, and may include additional content determined by the district. Mandatory courses, or the equivalent, include 1 credit in US History and Government, 1 credit in Contemporary World History, Geography and Problems, and .5 credits in Washington State History and Government (if taught at a high school level.) The Washington State History and Government graduation requirement may be fulfilled in the 7th or 8th grade, and the student may take .5 credits of an additional district-approved social studies course to meet the 2.5 credits total required in social studies. See the Social Studies Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Social Studies website for more information.

Health and Fitness - 2 credits, that align with state standards, plus content determined by the district. See the Health and Fitness Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Health and Fitness website for more information.

Career & Technical Education or Occupational Education - 1 credit that aligns with the definition of an exploratory course in OSPI's Career and Technical Education program standards. See the Career and Technical Education/Occupational Education Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Career and Technical Education website for more information.

Arts - 1 credit, that aligns with state standards in visual or performing arts, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the Arts Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Arts webpage for more information.

6. What are the state-mandated graduation credit requirements for the classes of 2016-2018 (students who entered the 9th grade in 2012 to 2014)?

SBE has established 20 state-mandated credits for the classes of 2016-2018. WAC 180-51-067 specifies the distribution of credits required for these classes. 

Subject Credits
English 4.0
Math 3.0
Science (at least 1 lab credit) 2.0
Social Studies 3.0
Health 0.5
Physical Education 1.5
Career & Technical Education or Occupational Education  1.0
Arts (visual or performing) 1.0
Electives 4.0
All Subjects 20

English - 4 credits aligned with learning standards for English Language Arts, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the English Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's English Language Arts website for more information.

Mathematics - 3 credits aligned with high school mathematics standards and include algebra I or integrated math 1, geometry or integrated math 2, and algebra II or integrated math 3, and may include additional content determined by the district. Students may take a different third credit of math under circumstances defined in WAC 180-51-067. See the Math Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Mathematics website for more information.

Science - 2 credits aligned with learning standards for science, and may include additional content determined by the district. At least 1 credit in laboratory science as defined locally. See the Science Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Science website for more information.

Social studies - 3 credits, that align with state standards in civics, economic, geography, history and social studies skills, and may include additional content determined by the district. Mandatory courses, or the equivalent, include 1 credit in US History and Government, 1 credit of Contemporary World History, Geography and Problems, and .5 credits of civics. In addition, students need to successfully complete Washington State History and Government. Civics may be embedded in another social studies course. In this case, students still need to complete 3 credits of social studies in high school. See the Social Studies Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Social Studies website for more information.

Health - .5 credits, see OSPI's Health and Fitness website for more information.

Physical Education - 1.5 credits, credits of physical education, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the Health and Physical Education Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Health and Fitness web page for more information.

Career & Technical Education or Occupational Education - 1 credit that aligns with the definition of an exploratory course in OSPI's Career and Technical Education program standards. See OSPI's Career and Technical Education website for more information.

Arts - 1 credit that aligns with state standards in visual or performing arts, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the Arts Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Arts webpage for more information.

7. What are the state-mandated graduation credit requirements for the Class of 2019 and beyond (students who entered 9th grade in 2015 and after)?

SBE has established 24 state-mandated credits for the Class of 2019 and beyond, as directed by legislation enacted in the 2014 Session (E2SSB 6552). WAC 180-51-068, adopted by the SBE in July 2014, specifies the distribution of credits required for these classes. These requirements are in effect unless a district applies to the SBE for a temporary waiver of the requirements for up to two years. 

Subject Credits Core or Elective Credit
English 4.0 Core
Math 3.0 Core
Science (at least 2 lab
credit)
3.0 Core
Social Studies 3.0 Core
Health 0.5 Core
Physical Education 1.5 Core
Career and Technical
Education
1.0 Core
Arts (visual or
performing), 1 of which
can be PPR*
2.0 1 Core, 1 Elective
World Language, both of
which can be PPR*
2.0 Elective
Electives 4.0 Elective
All Subjects 24**  

*Personalized Pathway Requirements - Up to 3 credits chosen by a student, that are included in a student's High School and Beyond Plan, and that prepare the student to meet specific post-secondary career or educational goals.

**Districts may waive up to 2 credits - Districts may develop written policies to waive up to 2 credits required for graduation for an individual student's circumstances, as defined by the district. Students granted a waiver must still earn the 17 required subject credits.

English - 4 credits aligned with learning standards for English Language Arts, and may include additional content determined by the district. See the English Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's English Language Arts for more information.

Mathematics - 3 credits aligned with high school mathematics standards and include algebra I or integrated math 1 and geometry or integrated math 2, and may include additional content determined by the district. The third credit of math is chosen by the student. It must be aligned with the student's interests and high school and beyond plan, and should be with the agreement of the student's parent or guardian, or school counselor or principal, as specified in WAC 180-51-068. See the Math Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Mathematics website for more information.

Science - 3 credits aligned with learning standards for science, and may include additional content determined by the district. At least 2 credits in laboratory science. The third credit of science is chosen by the student. It must be aligned with the student's interests and high school and beyond plan, and should be with the agreement of the student's parent or guardian, or school counselor or principal, as specified in WAC 180-51-068. See the Science Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Science website for more information.

Social Studies - 3 credits, that align with state standards in civics, economic, geography, history and social studies skills, and may include additional content determined by the district. Mandatory courses, or the equivalent, include 1 credit in US History and Government, .5 credit of Contemporary World History, Geography and Problems, and .5 credits of civics. In addition, students need to successfully complete Washington State History and Government. For the Classes of 2024 and beyond, civics may not be embedded within another social studies course unless it is a course that allows the student to earn college credit. See the Social Studies Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Social Studies website for more information.

Health - .5 credit, see OSPI's Health and Fitness website for more information.

Physical Education - 1.5 credits, that align with state standards, may include additional content determined by the district. See the Health and Fitness Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Health and Fitness website for more information.

Career and Technical Education or Occupational Education - 1 credit Career and Technical Education, or 1 credit of occupational education that aligns with the definition of an exploratory course in OSPI's Career and Technical Education program standards. See the Career and Technical Education/Occupational Education Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Career and Technical Education website for more information.

Arts - 2 credits, that align with state standards in visual or performing arts, and may include additional content determined by the district. One of the 2 credits may be replaced with a personalized pathway requirement (PPR). See the Arts Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's Arts webpage for more information.

World Language - 2 credits of world language or 2 credits of personalized pathway requirements (PPR). If the student has chosen a four-year degree pathway in their High School and Beyond Plan, the student shall be advised to earn 2 credits in world language. See the World Language Graduation Requirement FAQ and OSPI's World Languages website for more information.

8. What are the state-mandated noncredit-bearing graduation requirements for the classes of 2012 and beyond?

There are two state noncredit-bearing requirements for the graduating classes of 2012 to 2014: 1) a High School and Beyond Plan, and 2) completing a graduation pathway option.

For the Class of 2016 and beyond, in addition to the noncredit-bearing requirements of a High School and Beyond Plan and completing a graduation pathway option, Washington State History and Government also becomes a noncredit requirement. This change allows districts to offer Washington State History and Government at a middle school academic level, and allows middle school students to meet the graduation requirement before high school. If the course is offered at a high school academic level, the district may choose to award credit.

The High School and Beyond Plan: Beginning with students graduating in 2008, SBE, through, WAC 180-51-067, WAC 180-51-068, and WAC 180-51-220 has required students to complete a High School and Beyond Plan prior to graduation. More information can be found on the High School and Beyond Plan FAQ.

Graduation Pathway Options: Beginning with students graduating in 2020, students must meet at least one of these pathway options to graduate:

  • State Assessment 
  • Dual Credit
  • AP/IB/Cambridge
  • SAT/ACT
  • Transition Course
  • Combination
  • ASVAB
  • CTE Sequence

Read more about the graduation pathway options requirement. More information can be found on OSPI's State Testing webpage.

9. Is the Culminating Project required for graduation?

No, the Culminating Project is no longer required for graduation. Beginning with students graduating in 2008 and ending with students graduating in 2014, students were required to complete a Culminating Project. Legislation passed in 2014 (E2SSB 6552) eliminated the Culminating Project as a graduation requirement. It is not required for any student (no matter what year the student entered 9th grade) who graduates in 2015 or later.

10. How are students receiving special education affected by graduation requirements?

Students receiving services through special education will meet graduation requirements as determined by their Individualized Education Program (IEP) team and aligned to the student’s High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP). According to WAC 180-51-115, in limited circumstances when determined necessary by the IEP team due to the unique needs resulting from the student’s disability, a graduation credit and subject area requirement may be substituted with comparable content course work as identified by the IEP team.

11. Where can I find the graduation requirements of each district?

Students and parents should contact their school or district to identify their local graduation requirements. WAC 180-51-045 requires districts to inform students and their parents or guardian of the students’ graduation requirements. In addition, SBE has tabs for each graduating class year which can be found on the Graduation Requirements webpage of the SBE website. to: Linda Drake, Director of Career- and College- Readiness.

12. Where can I find a printable copy of SBE's-approved Washington State Career and College-Ready Graduation Requirements?

A table of Graduation Course-Taking Requirements is available on the Graduation Requirements web page.

Page last updated: February 2020.