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Olympia acts on three education priorities

Members of the state Legislature passed bills on three of the State Board of Education’s 2014 legislative priorities prior to their March 13 adjournment:

• authorization of a 24-credit career and college ready graduation requirement framework,

• expansion of math and science course equivalencies for vocational programs, and

• extended learning opportunities to combat summer learning loss.

SB 6552 authorizes the 24-credit graduation requirement framework developed by the SBE, provides flexibility to school districts in meeting the instructional hour requirement and expands math and science course equivalencies for Career and Technical Education programs.

“The career and college ready diploma is a big win for kids,” said Board Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. “Establishing a meaningful high school diploma that prepares students for their next step in life, whatever that might be, has been a top priority for the board for nearly a decade.”

This bill embraces a multiple pathway approach providing more student choice in math and science course-taking decisions, seven combined credits of electives and Personalized Pathway Requirements that allow students to explore or focus on a range of fields of knowledge that interest them, and increased opportunities to earn course equivalency credits in CTE courses.

While the framework increases the credits needed to graduate from 20 to 24, SB 6552 also makes the culminating project voluntary, somewhat offsetting the change.

Finally, the bill directs the Office of the Education Ombuds to convene a task force to review barriers to the 24-credit diploma for students with special needs.

“The new framework is rigorous and flexible,” explained Executive Director Ben Rarick. “It sets high graduation standards for all students, yet is sensitive to those who many need extra help to get there.”

SB 6163 creates the Expanded Learning Opportunities Council and directs the council to look at, among other things, a modified calendar and an action plan for a pilot program for an extended school year.

Summer learning loss is a real problem for many students and can be detrimental to those already lagging behind. A more balanced academic calendar will help combat summer learning loss and close the educational opportunity gap.

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