Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Implement Core 24 to prepare students for a successful life

In 1985, Microsoft released the first retail version of its wildly successful Windows operating system. You probably can’t remember life before MS Windows, but this was actually the same year that Washington state last updated its high school graduation requirements. A lot has changed since then.

Globalization and new technology have dramatically changed the job market that today's high school and college graduates face, which is one reason the state legislature increased the number of high school credits necessary to earn a diploma when it overhauled the state’s basic education system last spring. The Washington State Board of Education (SBE) calls these increased requirements Core 24, after the twenty four credits newly required for high school graduation.

Core 24 was at the heart of the education reform bill that groups such as the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the Washington State PTA advocated so passionately for last winter. Right now, a legislative workgroup is working to implement the new definition of basic education that came out of that reform. Core 24 is on the group's agenda but word has it that it is not a top priority. And yet there are many reasons why it should be.

By 2013, thirty-one states will have higher graduation requirements than Washington, once again putting our fair state in the bottom third of national education rankings. And according to the SBE:
Over half of community and technical college students who graduated from high school [in Washington] in 2006 took pre-college (remedial) classes in 2006-07: English, reading or math. This level of remediation cost students and the state $17.5 million.
Some Core 24 critics warn that if requirements are raised more students will drop out of school, but that myth doesn't line up with the facts. Dropping out is complex and problems that lead to dropping out usually start long before high school. Some research has shown that increased expectations lead to better results, with more kids finishing school. On top of that, the SBE has found that more low-income students complete college when they have had a rigorous high school education. Sound preparation pays off.

Core 24 was designed to prepare our kids to be “future ready,” that is, ready for either a career or college. As LEV board member Trish Millines Dziko recently wrote in the Seattle Times:
Current state requirements don't formally prepare a student for anything.

We have an obligation to ensure all kids are ready to succeed in college and careers, not be shut out due to our failure to coordinate state policies.
The real heart of the issue is that while most school districts exceed the state’s current twenty credit requirement, they do so on their own dollar. Right now, local levy money originally intended to pay for extras is going towards basic classes need to earn a diploma.

By including a twenty four credit requirement in the state’s definition of basic education, the state will be required to fund the additional credits, giving school districts the flexibility to use their levy dollars for true "extras” and enrichment like additional foreign language classes and after-school programs.

Core 24 should be a first step in implementing basic education reform. Updating and standardizing Washington graduation requirements will prepare our students for the modern job market and economy. The state should start its plan to fund a full range of courses for high school students, instead of just the twenty it currently covers.


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