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Student Wishes, Wants, Concerns about Graduation

Before the January 2021 Board meeting, members of the Association of Washington Student Leaders (AWSL) surveyed students from around the state about their wishes, wants, and concerns around graduation and graduation requirements. The following are some of the responses from current Washington students. 

Some of these concerns are addressed in SBE’s 2021 request legislation. Download the full survey responses in PDF format. Student comments are anonymous, but include ESD region and grade-level for each response. View SBE’s student Board members at the January meeting discussing these ideas and their perspective about graduation requirements on this short video snippet

Survey response highlights: 

When you see what the current Graduation Pathway Options, what are your thoughts regarding the current pathway options? What is positive? What is missing? What problems/issues do you see if any?

Senior, ESD 121

There is no pathway for the arts. The main goal of high school and part of the mission of SBE is to prepare for students for post-secondary education. As long as they have a plan, then that’s what they want. Students who take art in all of its forms deserve a chance to show that reflected in something that is deemed “valid” by the state.

Junior, ESD 121

One of the biggest thoughts I have is the last [pathway] about CTE courses, it definitely seems difficult to reach. I know that personally, I try to take as many AP classes as I want and having this requirement of one year of CTE classes has really made it hard for me to have the chance to take another AP if I were to choose to do so. I think potentially considering stuff outside of school that is still giving students a progression toward their post-secondary pathway would be more beneficial. For instance, if a student was very interested in healthcare, volunteering at the hospital for a certain amount of time would be more beneficial than having to take a CTE class that they're not as interested in. Other opportunities outside of school essentially.

Senior, ESD 171

A few of my thoughts regarding the current pathways, are that they are quite similar to those we would follow if we were in a normal situation/ no pandemic. One positive I see is that there is a variation of options which is good. Something that I see missing is an option for a personalized pathway, what I mean by this is that in our current situation having an option that can directly be adjusted to any students that is not one set in stone pathway. There needs to be more flexibility in the pathways especially in these situations. Not one set pathway will fit every students’ needs. I see a lot of equity issues that can come up. The pathways don’t necessarily take in account factors that can and have affected students’ performance in any learning platform. We can’t expect students to achieve the same requirements in a pandemic the way they would in a normal situation.

What concerns do you have regarding the current graduation requirements? 

Senior, ESD 112

I think 24 credits can be a lot for certain students. It is okay, we just need to make sure we are giving them sufficient ways to make up lost credits. I am also not the biggest fan of 24 credits because it doesn't leave as much room for students to explore what they are passionate about. Yes, some of those are elective credits but they are bogged down by extra conditions of other credits they have to meet.

Senior, ESD 121

They are so inflexible. Students cannot struggle. There is no room for it and I think the value that is shown through a 24-credit requirement cultivates students with high rates of anxiety, depression, and afraid of risk.

Junior, ESD 121

I feel like there should be more importance put on STEM courses and finance related courses. They’re so important and are very beneficial to our future careers.

Senior, ESD 123

There are so many specific requirements for high school students to meet now in order to graduate, which is forcing students into courses that they do not want to take.

If you could wave a magic wand and make an improvement/change/modification to graduation requirements, what would it be?

Senior, ESD 121

Create a HSBP that tangibly gives tools for students to create future. A MEANINGFUL high school and beyond plan that healthily bridges students between the confusion of today to the confusion of tomorrow.

Senior, ESD 189

I would create a more situation-based pathway that can award a struggling student graduation based on their growth and effort over their high school career. This would mostly regard seniors who do not have any of the other requirements for graduation, but who are willing to put in the work to thrive in their classes and succeed their senior year.

Junior, ESD 121

I would say that outside opportunities should count for CTE if they were to align with a post-secondary interest. This way students would start to learn more in the real world juggling real experience with their interest rather than having to take a class at their school simply for the credit. It doesn't foster student learning as much and we should always make it a goal for students to like what they learn!

What is something you wish adults/policy-makers knew regarding graduation requirements?

Senior, ESD 123

Most high school students do not start paying attention to graduation requirements until their junior year of high school, which is also the time in their lives where they start to focus on their 5th year plans. When I was a junior in high school, I knew that I wanted to study business in college after I graduate. But when it came time to pick the courses for my senior year, I didn't have enough room in my schedule to take a business class because there were so many other classes that I was forced to take in order to graduate. So instead, I now spend an hour every day in a painting class, instead of Business 101 where I would be getting a taste of what I will be focusing on in the next four years of college, because I am forced to do so.

Junior, ESD 121

Basically, adding in an ethnic studies as a requirement but I know that ain’t coming anytime soon so the requirements for graduation right now are ok to me.

How has COVID, impacted your feelings/thoughts surrounding graduation and graduation requirements?

Senior, ESD 121

It just shows how you prepared we are for special circumstances. In my mind, every student is a special circumstance. We are all living a different life with different barriers and aspirations and now more than ever, it shows how unequipped our system is to handle the students of the state. We need to reflect on the holes in the requirements because I know that the majority of students are struggling through this year at such an intense level and the weight of such requirements is not helping.

Senior, ESD 189

I believe that especially this year, graduation requirements should be flexible based on situation. I know of many intelligent and hardworking students who are earning NCs/Fs in their classes due to the downfalls of online school. The online model works fine for some students, but for others it simply isn't possible to thrive. I do not believe that the students who are not thriving due to the difficulties of online school should be barred from graduating this year.

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