Opinion

Our kids need tougher graduation requirements

Today, most family-wage jobs in Washington require some form of post-secondary education or training. By 2014, 77 percent of those jobs will require training or education after high school — in King and Snohomish counties the number jumps to 85 percent. And yet, Washington allows too many of its children to graduate from high school unprepared for post-secondary life.

Our high school graduation requirements leave students 4.5 credits short of what they need to be admitted to a state four-year college. We allow kids to graduate from high school with less English, math and world language credits than they need to just get in the door at UW, WSU and CWU. Only 41 percent of the classes of 2005 and 2006 were even eligible to apply to our four-year colleges.

And what about those students not interested in a four-year degree? We’re letting them down, too. To take credit-bearing math classes at two- or four-year colleges in Washington, students must first pass Algebra II — another course not required for high school graduation. Of the Class of 2006 who immediately went on to two- or four-year colleges, 33 percent enrolled in remedial math. At state community and technical colleges alone, almost half of 2006 graduates needed to take remedial math classes.

Employers say time and again that college ready equals work ready — they expect the same skills out of potential employees that two- and four-year colleges expect of entering freshmen. We cannot continue to have lower expectations for kids who plan to go directly into the workforce; they will benefit just as much from rigorous courses, curriculum and expectations. In fact, students in more rigorous courses not only make larger academic gains; they also are less likely to fail.

We need to create pathways of opportunity for our kids. And we need to take the guesswork out of college-readiness.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity for change. The State Board of Education will vote Wednesday, July 23 on whether to require Algebra II as the third required math credit. The board also is considering raising the minimum high school graduation requirements to better align with college entrance requirements.

By aligning high school graduation requirements with post-secondary expectations, we will be giving students the opportunity to pursue whatever path they choose, rather than having the choice made for them when they exit high school unprepared for life beyond 12th grade.

There are three ways you can help to improve our schools for all of our kids.

Join us on the Did You Know Campaign Bus to the state board meeting in Vancouver July 23.

Talk with your neighbors.

Visit didyouknowcampaign.com to learn more.

Help us change the world by changing our schools.

Lisa Macfarlane is director of external affairs at the League of Education Voters Foundation (levfoundation.org). She can be reached at 206-728-6448 or info@educationvoters.org.

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