Core 24 is a proposal from the State Board of Education to set a new minimum for high school graduation requirements for every student in the state.
If adopted, CORE 24 would require all students to earn 24 high school credits in these categories:
4.0 Language Arts
3.0 Math (Algebra, Geometry, and either Algebra 2 or an approved substitute)
3.0 Science (2 labs minimum)
3.0 Social Studies
1.5 Fitness (may be waived)
3.0 Career and Technical Education (once called voc ed or occ ed)
4.0 Elective (2.0 world language and 1.0 math recommended for college-readiness)
This differs from the current state-mandated graduation requirements by having an additional year of language arts, an additional year of a laboratory science, an additional semester of social studies, an additional year of art, and two additional years of CTE. That's 5.5 additional credits of required courses. The electives, however, are reduced by 1.5 credits, for a net increase of 4.0 credits.
Getting 24 credits in four years works out to six credits a year. That means taking (and passing) six classes in a six-period day for all eight semesters of high school. Let's remember that Seattle's current graduation requirement is 20 credits and about 30% of the students aren't getting over that bar. How are we going to get them over this higher one?
This means, of course, that any student that fails any class will have to make up the class. And they can't make it up during the regular school day or year. They will have to make it up either online or before school or after school or during the summer. Seattle Public Schools was concerned that a 2.0 GPA requirement would discourage struggling students. What do you think the extended day or year on top of a full load of six classes a day every day will do for them? Inspire them?
The State Board of Education says that supporting struggling students is essential, as is a comprehensive system of career and college guidance - but those aren't part of the basic funding set of CORE 24. They would move forward without it.
The affluent, educated folks behind CORE 24 recognize the heavier burden it puts on students, so they built some flexibility into it by allowing students to get credit through alternative means, such as getting credit for high school courses in middle school, getting credit for courses taken at college, getting credit for classes taken outside of school - all of which sound likely for well-prepared and well-supported children of affluent educated families, but doesn't offer much flexibility for other folks.
What is the problem that we're trying to solve here? The students that are serious about going to college are already taking the classes they need to qualify. How many students graduate from high school thinking that they can then go to a four-year university but without the pre-requisite courses needed to gain entry? How big a problem is that? Which students who want to go to college don't know that they have to take certain classes in high school to qualify? And what's the tragedy if they have to take those classes at a community college before they can transfer to that four-year school? And, even more fundamentally, who says that a degree from a four-year college is the only legitimate path and that everyone has to be on it?
This idea isn't new to me. I grew up in a middle class family that valued education. An under-graduate education was assumed in my family. If I ever questioned going to college I was immediately rebuffed. "What if I want to be a plumber?" I asked. "Then you'll be a college-educated plumber", my mother responded, "and it can only make you a better plumber." The topic simply wasn't open to discussion. Now it seems that the State Board of Education wants to make my mother's argument to every student in the state. I'm just having a hard time seeing Mary Jean Ryan playing the yiddeshe mamma role for under-performing minority students in the Rainier Valley. I don't think they will stand for it.
I see CORE 24 as doing a lot of damage without returning much good. Let's see that we can more reliably get students to earn 19 or 20 credits before we require them to get 24. Let's go ahead and fund the college and career counseling part so students know what high school classes they have to take to get into college and don't fail to take them. Then, when we're making more than a tiny fraction of the kids college-ready (only 17% of Seattle high school graduates met the credit requirement for four-year college in 2006-2007), let's raise the bar.