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Graduation Pathway Options

1. What is the State Board of Education’s role with graduation requirements and E2SHB 1599?

RCW 28A.230.090 authorizes SBE to establish state graduation requirements. SBE has established credit requirements, and the High School and Beyond Plan (WAC 180-51-056, WAC 180-51-067, WAC 180-51-068, and WAC 180-51-210).

In 2019, new legislation (E2SHB 1599) removed the explicit link of the state assessment to graduation, replacing it with a set of pathway options for graduation. The new law also directs the State Board of Education to adopt rules for Section 201 (graduation pathways section), codified in RCW 28A.655.250.

Districts and tribal schools may add local requirements to the state requirements.

2. Will the graduation pathways requirement be waived because of the ongoing disruptions due to the coronavirus?

The State Board of Education does not have the authority to change the graduation pathway option requirement or extend the Certificate of Individual Achievement beyond the Class of 2021, that would take an act of the state Legislature. However, the SBE is planning to advocate with the Legislature about the need for emergency authority to prevent students from being unduly impacted when an emergency causes significant disruptions to coursework and assessments.

SBE is proposing legislation for the 2021 Legislative session around the need for SBE to have emergency authority. This legislation would provide the State Board of Education with authority to establish an emergency waiver program to allow school districts to waive certain graduation requirements on an individual student basis after the district makes a good faith effort to help the student meet the requirements. Specifically, the bill would allow for waiver of credit graduation requirements (RCW 28A.230.090) and the graduation pathway requirement (RCW 28A.655.250) on an individual student basis beginning with the Class of 2020.

Read more about SBE’s proposed bill for emergency authority in this one pager

3. What are the eight pathways that students must meet one of in order to graduate, beginning with the Class of 2020?

Students must meet the state and local credit graduation requirements, complete a High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP), and one of the following graduation pathway options:

  1. Meet or exceed the graduation scores in the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA). For students with the most significant cognitive difficulties, the WA-AIM is available to fulfill the state assessment pathway. 
  2. Dual credit courses (for example, Running Start or College in the High School) in English Language Arts and math
  3. Earn a 3 or higher on certain Advanced Placement exams or a 4 or higher on certain International Baccalaureate exams, or pass the course with a C+
  4. Meet or exceed the graduation scores in the math and English portions of the SAT or ACT
  5. Bridge to College courses (senior courses for students who earned a Level 2 on the SBA)
  6. Meet any combination of at least one English and one math option of those options listed in #1-5
  7. Meet standards on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery)*
  8. Complete a sequence of Career and Technical Education courses*

*Note: The armed services test and the CTE course sequence are new graduation pathways; the other pathways have been alternative assessments. Students who pursue these pathways (ASVAB or CTE) do not need to meet English and math pathway requirements separately. English and math content are embedded in both pathways—and both pathways meet the purpose of a high school diploma: to declare that a student is ready for success in postsecondary education, gainful employment, and citizenship, and is equipped with the skills to be a lifelong learner (RCW 28A.230.090). A student who meets either the ASVAB standard or the CTE pathway requirements has met the graduation pathway requirement.

Students can also combine different pathways (#1-5 above) to meet math and ELA standards. For example, a student who meets English standard on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the math standard through a Bridge to College course has met the pathway requirement.

4. What counts for the CTE graduation pathway?

To achieve this pathway, complete a sequence of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses:

  • two or more high school credits of CTE courses in a progression tailored to the student’s goals and relevant to the postsecondary pathway(s) outlined in the student’s High School and Beyond Plan. The sequence may be comprised of courses within the same CTE program area or courses within more than one CTE program area.
  • the sequence must include at least one course that meets either 1.) the criteria for CTE preparatory programs, meaning the sequence leads to a certificate or credential (this does not require the student to obtain the credential) or allows the student to earn dual credit, or 2.) the curriculum requirements of Core Plus programs.

The sequence may be comprised of courses within the same CTE program area or courses within more than one CTE program area if the sequence is approved by OSPI.
In order to apply for approval for a local CTE sequence (only required if it is in more than one program area), follow the directions on OSPI’s website. OSPI’s website also includes a list of already approved local CTE pathway sequences. If the local sequence your district wishes to implement has already been approved, you do not need to reapply, you simply need to notify OSPI of your intention to use the previously approved sequence. 

If you have further questions, please contact Linda Drake and Alissa Muller.

5. What scores are necessary on the ASVAB to qualify as a graduation pathway?

To meet the ASVAB graduation pathway option, students must meet the minimum score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) to be eligible to serve in a branch of the armed services at the time the student takes the test. The AFQT is a component of the ASVAB (not a separate test). Satisfying this graduation pathway option meets requirements in both English and math. 

The current score students must meet is: 31 (this score will be confirmed and updated here at least annually by September 1. Students may choose to meet either the minimum score the year a student take the ASVAB or the score established by any branch of the military posted here on a later date prior to the student turning 21 years of age.)

Score: 31

If you have questions, please contact Alissa Muller.

6. What scores count for the Smarter Balanced Assessment pathway?

The law specifies that the statewide high school assessment graduation standard established by the State Board of Education is the threshold. This is the same standard used in prior years.

7. What dual credit courses count for the dual credit pathway?

The course must generate both high school credit and college credit (100 level or above), and the student must qualify for the college credit (pass the course). These courses would be offered through Running Start, College in the High School, and CTE Dual Credit courses.

8. How do students meet the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International pathway?

Students can meet the Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or the Cambridge International pathway either by successfully completing the course (see grade requirements below) or by passing the exam (see required scores below.)

Course method: the law specifies that for ELA, the AP English Language and Composition Literature, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Psychology, US History, World History, US Government and Politics, and Comparative Government courses work, as well as any of the Individuals and Societies courses in the IB catalog. For math, AP Statistics, Computer Science, Computer Science Principles and Calculus count, as well as any of the Mathematics courses in the IB catalog. The law does not specify Cambridge International courses beyond “English Language Arts and Mathematics.”

Students are not required to take the assessment associated with the AP, IB or Cambridge course they enroll in to meet this pathway requirement via the course route. A student can meet this pathway through the course route by successfully completing the course through earning a C+ or better grade in the course.

Exam method: Alternatively, students can meet this pathway by passing the associated assessment for any of the English Language Arts or math courses as laid out in law (as described above) at a specified level. To meet this pathway, students must earn a 3 or higher on the AP exam, a 4 or higher on the IB exam, or score an E (the minimum passing score in Cambridge exams) or higher on the exam associated with the courses described above.

9. What are the cut scores for the SAT or ACT that count for a graduation pathway?

The State Board of Education is required to, and has already, established cut scores for these tests, though the Board may change them in future rule making. The current cut scores can be found here.

10. What counts for the transition course pathway?

Any high school course that is used for placement into a college-level math or ELA may meet this requirement. This would include Bridge to College Courses, but also could include courses that meet local placement agreements between districts and institutions of higher education.

11. What does it mean to combine ELA and math options?

A student can use any combination of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, dual credit, transition courses, AP/IB/Cambridge, and ACT or SAT scores to meet the ELA and math requirements of those pathways. For example, a student may combine an AP Statistics course with their SBA score in ELA. With the CTE pathway or the ASVAB pathway—completing either of these would meet either the math or the ELA, or both, requirement.


Page last updated: January 2021.