Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Align High School Graduation Requirements with College Entrance Requirements

Out of yesterday's Washington Learns report, comes one recommendation that makes so much sense, it's hard to believe it hasn't been put in place already.

In the PI article yesterday, Offer students more help, state's colleges are urged, is the suggestion that "The state should align high school graduation and college entrance requirements to ease the transition to higher education." As James Sulton, executive director of the HEC Board explains, "there is no clean mesh between what students are told they need to do in order to finish high school and told what they need to do in order to get admitted to college."

In other words, students in Seattle (and elsewhere in Washington state) can finish high school with a diploma and a high grade point average and still be ineligible to apply for entrance as a freshman to a state university because they didn't take the required number of years of English, math or other required coursework.

Many kids who are 15 or 16 years old don't have a clear idea of what they want to do professionaly and whether or not they will eventually want to (or need to) attend a four-year college. We shouldn't let these kids opt out of the required coursework to be considered for college admission.

The UW, WSU, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University, and Evergreen State College all require:
  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Math
  • 2 years of Science
  • 3 years of Social Studies
  • 2 years of a Foreign Language

Schools in Washington state should require the same curricula for a high school diploma. This is one recommendation that Seattle Schools can and should act on without waiting for the state to make decisions about whether or not to implement this Washington Learns recommendation.


Anonymous said...

If the state required the courses, they would have to fund them. They don't even want to fund 6 classes in high school.

Bellevue has a 7 period day and is also looking at increased rigor

Under a revised curriculum being considered by the district, students would need to take four years of math and three years of science before graduating from Bellevue high schools.

Such a change would make the Bellevue School District one of the few in the state with such graduation requirements.

"It's not good for kids to start college and find out they must take remedial course for no credit and you and your folks have to pay for it," said Jan Zuber, assistant superintendent for school administration and curriculum development.
.......Moore said a survey last year found that of the roughly 200 school district responding out of a total of 296 in the state, only one reported that it required four math courses to graduate from high school.

Moore said the state sets a minimum of 19 total credits to graduate, while Bellevue requires 23.5 credits.

However, Zuber said, because the district has seven class periods during the day, rather than the standard six, students could rack up as many as 28 total credits through their four years of high school.

Anonymous said...

There is a tension between the desire to increase requirements for a HS degree and the desire to have more students graduate from HS, since a HS diploma is key to avoiding deep poverty and other woes. The solution the State has chosen is to use the Community and Technical Colleges as a place where students can get the courses they need to go to four-year schools. The CTCs do this for a fraction of the money that the 4-year schools do and even do it for much less (on a student for student basis) than the high schools.

Anonymous said...

As a college advisor in the community college, it is distressing both to myself and to students to see students with 3.50 in college prep classes in some of our city public high schools, needing to take remedial courses, after the COMPASS tests ( which the CC uses for placement) identify them as needing remedial work.

Our Community colleges and vocational schools are great resources, but if students are having to take college prep classes after high school graduation- may I ask what is being taught in high school?

Anonymous said...

Seattle has stepped up to paying for the 6-period day because most of the kids who wanted it are college-bound. And frankly, it is better for kids to be in class than being a TA or out wandering the streets (because at most schools they are not allowed on campus, even in the library, if they don't have a class). The money given to Roosevelt still wasn't enough because of its high population (and even though the school was built for a population of about 1650-1700, they have almost 1800)so they have almost 200 kids who want a 6th period but there is no class for them to take.

Anonymous said...

Actually, both Center School and Nathan Hale have alligned their graduation requirements to university entry requirements, requiring 23.5 credits for graduation (at least Hale does) as opposed to the 20 required by the district (and the 19 required by the state - this is how the state gets away with funding only a five period day, by the way). These include 3 full years of both math and science. This was actually a key part of Hale's education reform over the past ten years, and is a requirement for all students, not just those considered high achieving. Interestingly, Hale also has the highest correlation between high school GPA and UW GPA of any of the traditional Seattle Public High Schools. Over the past five years parents have had to fund more and more of the program to allow this to happen.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, could you tell me where that page is on the UW admissions website for the high school correlations and UW? I looked under the Counselor page (as an Admissions staffer told me) but can't find it. I know that UW uses it only as a trend and that Hale, Roosevelt and Garfield tend to have the best correlation between the student's GPA and their early grades at UW.

You do point up something of an interesting dilemma. Hale's success(my son just graduated from Hale last June - he liked it but we, as parents, had a decidedly mixed experience) puts in line to be expanded (the building can hold 1500). But Hale's staff don't want to grow larger because of the difficulities of maintaining their staff/student interactions and the high degree of collaboration between teachers.

I wonder how Bellevue can pay for a 7 period day.

Roy Smith said...

I'm going to be politically incorrect here and suggest that requiring all high school graduates to have completed sufficient course work to be able to apply for a four-year university is inappropriate. This is equivalent to requiring all high schools to be college prep schools, and could be a significant disservice to those who are (for whatever reason) not college bound. Specifically, imposing these sorts of additional requirements could be burdensome (and achieve no noticeable positive effect) on students who are enrolled in apprentices or other kinds of vocational training programs.

Perhaps high school graduation requirements should be more stringent; however, decisions to increase academic requirements and/or rigor should be based on producing high school graduates that have the academic and life skills society expects (or should expect) them to have as high school graduates, which is not necessarily equivalent to the academic skills required to be a college freshman.

Making changes based on the assumption that every high school graduate should be ready to enter a four-year university will not necessarily increase the quality of high school education (we'll just get more, rather than better), but it will probably increase drop-out rates and will perpetuate the notion that earning a college degree is necessary before somebody can become a useful member of society.

Beth Bakeman said...

Interestingly, since Bellevue Schools District has implemented an even more rigorous academic curriculum, their drop out rate has decreased significantly.

Roy Smith said...

Hm. I've also heard rumblings (see the last comment on this thread) that Bellevue's success is not as clear-cut as they would like everybody to believe.

Beth Bakeman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beth Bakeman said...

You're right, Roy. And honestly, despite the problems, I would much rather have my children in Seattle schools than in Bellevue schools for several reasons.

1) Alternative education in Bellevue means one middle school and one high school for kids who teachers don't want in the "regular" schools.

2) The push for academic rigor and lots of AP classes has led to a hyper-competitive atmosphere in many high schools which I don't think is healthy.

3)Too much uniformity is required in curriculum and instructional methods for my tastes and educational philosophy.

But, I am also a big believer in the importance of analyzing data. And what Bellevue has accomplished in terms of graduation rates and percentage of kids going to college is quite impressive. This is despite significant increases in ELL populations in the last 5 years.

I know Bellevue does not have the same student population and same issues as Seattle. I don't think Seattle schools should try to be like Bellevue schools. But, I do believe we could learn some things from that district to try in our own --- like more rigorous graduation standards.

Here are a couple relevant articles: