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Graduation Requirements

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If you are a student or family member of a student, see the Families and Students page. 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.

Legislation passed in the 2019 session (HB 1599) established graduation pathway options. For more about state assessments check OSPI’s State Testing web page. Find more information about the Graduation Requirement Emergency Waiver program.

Career- and College-Ready Graduation Requirements

The State Board’s vision is of an education system that prepares all students for college, career and life. In support of this vision, the Board has worked to create a high school diploma requirements that are both rigorous and flexible. In Washington, high school students must meet credit requirements, graduation pathway option requirements, and have a High School and Beyond Plan

Graduation Requirements Resources
Infographic detailing credit requirements

Along with new credit requirements, the state's assessment system, the Smarter Balanced assessments, are aligned to career and college readiness and new learning standards. These tests will have performance Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. Earning a Level 3 or Level 4 on the high school Smarter Balanced tests represents a career- and college-ready score. In August 2015, the Board has set a score for graduation that is below a Level 3 so that the transition to new assessments required for graduation can be fair to students, but it remains a goal of the Board that all students will earn at least a Level 3 on the high school Smarter Balanced exams. The graduation score is the score students must meet for the Smarter Balanced graduation pathway option. As students and the system adjust to new standards and new assessments, the Board expects to see all students scoring at a Level 3 or above. All students will continue to take the Smarter Balanced assessments (even if they plan to use a different pathway to meet their graduation pathway requirement) for state and federal accountability purposes, as well as to ensure the system is serving all student groups equitably.

The Board believes that new credit requirements and new learning standards, combined with the excellent work of Washington’s educators and schools, will help all students graduate prepared for their next steps in life.

The State Board of Education sets state credit requirements and local districts may set additional requirements. The Legislature identified the tests students must take to graduate, and the Board sets the scores students must earn on those tests.

Graduation Requirements for the Classes of 2019 and Beyond

A table comparing the requirements of the Class of 2016 and the 24 Credit Career- and College-Ready Graduation Requirements is available here. Note: this table pertains only to credits required to graduate. 

The 24-credit framework was designed to be both rigorous and flexible. The pathway for most students will keep all postsecondary options open, including meeting the college admission requirements for entry into a public four-year institution or pursuing a program of study in a two -year institution or apprenticeship. The framework is flexible enough to accommodate a program of study leading to a professional or technical certificate or degree through a skills center or Career and Technical Education program.

Visuals illustrating the Career- and College-Ready Graduation Requirements.

Key elements of the framework that allow for flexibility include:

Infographic detailing changing credit requirements
  • 7 of the 24 credits are flexible credits; these include 4 elective credits and 3 Personalized Pathway Requirements that are chosen by students based on their interest and their High School and Beyond Plans.
  • 17 of the 24 credits are mandatory core credits, including 3 credits of science, 2 of which must be lab science.
  • 2 of the flexible credits may be waived locally for individual students based on ‘a student's circumstances,’ as defined by local district policy.
  • For districts who need more time to implement the 24 credit framework, E2SSB 6552 provided authority to the SBE to waive implementation of the framework for up to two years.

Applications for Waiver of Implementation of the 24 Credit Framework for Up to Two Years

RCW 28A.230.090 (1) provides that school districts may apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver to implement the Career- and College-Ready Graduation requirements adopted in 2014 beginning with the graduating class of 2020 or 2021 rather than the graduating class of 2019. The SBE is directed to grant such waiver to an applying school district at the next subsequent meeting of the Board after receiving an application. (E2SSB 6552. Chapter 217, Laws of 2014.) WAC 180-51-068 (11) implements this provision. An application for a waiver under WAC 180-51-068 (11) that is received by the SBE before the first day of a scheduled board meeting will be considered by the Board at that meeting. The Board requests, however, that applications be received at least ten days before a scheduled board meeting in order that they may be included in the printed materials prepared for the meeting. For a list of schools with current graduation requests, visit the Waivers page.

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