High school graduation requirements on the rise

POULSBO — Show us your skills.

State legislation aimed at better preparing Washington high school students to enter an increasingly competitive world has enacted three new graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2008 — this year’s sophomores.

Prior to the class of 2008, state students were only required to earn 19 high school credits in order to meet the state graduation standard. Discussions of additional requirements began when 1993 legislation launched Washington’s education reform campaign and started the process of requiring the Washington Assessment of Student Learning for graduation.

Since then the State Board of Education has determined what date the new requirement would take effect — 2008 — and compiled two additional requirements.

Beginning with the class of 2008, students will have to earn the requisite 19 credits and a certificate of academic achievement by meeting standards on the reading, writing and math sections of the WASL. They will also have to complete a culminating project and a high school and beyond plan, outlining what students intend to acquire from high school as well as what their next steps will be.

“We’re going to direct students more toward, ‘What do you want to do with the rest of your life?’” said NKHS career specialist Paula Patterson.

Students will form their individual plans beginning in eighth or ninth grade and continue to revisit, revise and expand upon them as they continue through high school.

The plan will include an essay on the students’ educational experience along with a set of goals for high school and goals for beyond, providing a framework, in writing, that each student is trying to reach.

Specific guidelines and standards set by the NKSD for North Kitsap students’ high school and beyond plans are available at the NKHS counseling office in a packet called “It’s Your Future.”

“This whole thing is to line up (students) in their learning processes,” NKHS director of career and technical education Jim Noeldner said of the plan, adding that with only three full-time counselors at the high school, it’s nearly impossible for them to get to know each student in a great degree of depth.

“Not only will (students) explore what they are interested in, they will also have a plan to implement that,” Noeldner said.

In addition, with the newly required culminating project, students will be able to dive even further into their individual interests while integrating personal experience and knowledge into problem solving.

So what does a culminating project look like?

NKHS and Polaris have piloted culminating projects the last two years. Those pilots have constructed a project format that includes a student portfolio (covering ninth to 12th grades), a project and a presentation.

“What it’s going to look like for the class of 2008 is still evolving,” Patterson said, noting that this year’s high school sophomores have been focused on the importance of the WASL this year. “(In the past) they’ve been anywhere from a student putting a lift kit on his car to a quilt being made. There was a huge stretch.”

“It’s supposed to ask students to show us the culmination of (their) learning and how would (they) apply it to something,” Noeldner noted.

In order to ensure students’ success with the culminating project, the idea of offering a semester class at NKHS called senior seminar, which will focus directly on that work is being considered, Patterson said.

However, without many other semester electives along with complications that could arise with students involved in music electives, further refinement will be necessary.

“There is the ability to see what’s going to work best when we get to the two (North Kitsap and Kingston) high schools,” Patterson said of the upcoming transition, set to begin in the 2007-2008 school year.

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