Friday, August 7, 2020
Aug. 7, 2020

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Washington high school seniors will get a pass on certain graduation requirements


Washington’s high school seniors don’t need to panic: Those who are on track to graduate this spring will get a pass from certain graduation requirements, state education officials ruled Wednesday.

Schools are closed in Washington through the end of the school year, though education officials have asked teachers to continue instruction remotely. But the move to distance education has left many students — seniors, in particular — concerned they’ll fall behind or fail to graduate.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Washington State Board of Education officials found a fix for seniors. Board members voted unanimously to approve a set of emergency rules giving school districts power to waive seniors’ required course credits, including those for elective classes and core classes such as math and English. The new rules are effective immediately and apply to public school districts, as well as private, charter and tribal compact schools.

Students considered “on track” to graduate include those who were enrolled in or had planned to enroll in courses that would fulfill the state’s 24-credit graduation requirement. Districts can waive credits for coursework students were taking when Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in February — and for credits students intended to enroll in before the school year ends. This could include summer school classes, should school buildings remain closed through the summer months.

Waiving credit should be a last resort, officials said. Districts are expected to first exhaust every option they have to help students complete required credits. But if that proves impossible, districts can submit an application to SBE for authority to waive credits for students on a case-by-case basis. Officials said they intend to post an application for districts by April 15, though it may be available sooner.

Waivers are only for seniors: districts won’t be allowed to waive credits for students in earlier grades. And seniors still need to meet other graduation requirements, such as completing a High School and Beyond Plan — a written academic plan students create with help from school counselors.

The waiver excuses students from coursework but doesn’t grant credit. This may keep some students from enrolling in colleges that require certain credits for entry. State Board of Education members and education department officials are now talking with state university leaders about how to address this. One option: seniors with waived credit could be required to take remedial courses. Solutions will likely be different across the state’s colleges and universities, said Randy Spaulding, SBE’s executive director.