In 2009, legislators set their sights on new graduation standards that would require students to take 24 credits of coursework instead of 20. The idea was to develop minimum course requirements for high school graduation that mirrored those for college entry, while still leaving room for students to take electives or pursue an alternative path of career and technical education.
But just as lawmakers are being asked to finally require districts to move to the 24-credit diploma, some lawmakers are questioning what had been seen as a key tenet of their plan.
Lawmakers in 2009 pledged to increase classroom time for older students from 1,000 hours per year to 1,080 hours per year to help schools meet the demand for more courses under a 24-credit curricula.
Now some are reconsidering whether increasing classroom time is the right way to go.
Education leaders in the state
But school districts came back this year saying that they're having trouble implementing the 1,080-hour-per-year requirement. Common complaints included that changing schools' starting and ending times would wreak havoc on bus schedules, as well as school districts' contracts with teachers unions.
"It'd probably cost us about
Meanwhile, some lawmakers would like to see more money put toward adopting the 24-credit graduation standard, particularly to hire more high school guidance counselors who could help students understand the new graduation requirements. The 24-credit model developed by the state
"My biggest fear is a student who's in ninth grade fails an English class, and suddenly he's not on track to graduate," said House Majority Leader
Last week, two state senators introduced a plan to relax the 1,080-hour requirement and focus instead on implementing the 24-credit graduation standard.
Senate Bill 6552 would reroute last year's
If passed, the bill would no longer require schools to offer 1,080 hours of class time per year for students in grades 7-12. Instead, it would let districts calculate instructional time using a district-wide average of hours taught in all grades, excluding kindergarten.
That approach would mean each school in a district, on average, would need only to reach a goal of 1,027 hours per year -- a more modest increase from the current 1,000-hour-per-year requirement.
It also would mean that some schools at the high school level could offer fewer instructional hours per year, as long as other schools in the district offered more class time to help pick up the slack. The changes to school instructional hours would start in 2015-16.
"It's really not about how much time a student sits in a chair," Dammeier said. "It's about what is the right programming to get them to be prepared. With 24 credits, that's where we're setting the bar."
The bill's primary sponsor, Democratic Sen.
"They're going to need to use the money for busing and things that don't work," Rolfes said.
Some lawmakers, however, aren't so sure about backing away from the 1,080-hour requirement that
WANTS MORE HOURS
"I think it would be a hard thing to describe an educational reason why you would want to not provide funding for 1,080 hours," Hunter said Friday. "I don't see a need to move any of the money around in the budget."
At the same time, Hunter said he thinks
So does the
"Even if we do it now, we're talking about the class of 2019," said
(c)2014 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)
Visit The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.) at www.TheNewsTribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services