Mar 202016

What’s a personal pathway? (And will your student get one?)

Community meetings this week; surveys online

UPDATE: Survey has been extended into the first week of April. GREAT response in the first go-around, but we need to hear from as many parents as possible.

Starting with this year’s 7th-graders, high school graduates will need to earn 24 credits. In return, they get access to personal pathways driven by their career or college goals.

Tools for families to support their students in career and college planning:


Dear families,

Washington State is transitioning to new college- and career-ready graduation requirements. This could affect how students’ courses are selected, as well as daily schedules at Seattle public high schools – for instance moving to “block schedules” that alternate classes, or to a trimester schedule that allows kids to take fewer courses at a time, but more courses over an academic year.

Or changes could be as simple as adding an advisory period and making more online credit retrieval available.


There are two community meetings scheduled for families to learn about the new requirements and potential changes for students:

  • March 24 at Ballard High School commons, 6:30-8 pm
  • March 29 at South Lake High School commons, 6:30-8 pm


There are also two surveys – one for current high school parents, and one for current middle school parents. Links to those can be found also be found here.


For Seattle Public Schools students, changes in graduation requirements take place for the class of 2021 – or this year’s 7th-graders. But changes to high school schedules could affect older students.

Statewide, graduation requirement changes are in effect for the class of 2019, unless their district sought a waiver.


The state is moving from 20 to 24 credit requirements to give all students the opportunity to better transition to life after high school. The increase in credits accommodates course sequences that open doors to certification programs, or more in-depth study in a particular area. For instance, allowing students to take multiple courses in an art or technical field, world language, math or science.

Students can tailor the credits into a personal pathway, based on a High School and Beyond Plan that they craft; or they can follow a default pathway that aligns to college entrance requirements.

The state has already phased in a third year of math, and a fourth year of English language arts. The additional credits making up 24 are in arts, science, and world languages – though students have the option to swap the arts and language requirements for personal pathway courses.


Currently SPS high school students have the opportunity to take at least 24 credits, but not all students do. Others attempt 24, but fail or drop a course. Some schools, such as Nathan Hale and Cleveland STEM high schools, have modified block schedules that allow students to take more classes. Other schools offer zero hour classes, and some students have access to online courses.

The district currently requires 21 credits, but some high schools require more.

In considering implementation issues, the district’s 24 Credit Graduation Requirement Task Force looked at the need for students to have in-school time for career planning and exploration, in-school help with courses or counseling, and in-school time to re-take a course, if necessary. The committee also reviewed scheduling needs for staff and components of the High School and Beyond Plan.


From the State Board of Education: “The High School and Beyond Plan is a formal process designed to help students think about their future goals and how to accomplish those goals. This includes exploring interests and career options, developing a course plan for high school, and exploring opportunities to develop skills.”

The state superintendent’s office (OSPI) also offers this overview.

The plan has been a state requirement since the class of 2008, though the push to make the plan more meaningful by giving students the power to use it to craft a personal pathway is fairly new (since about 2013). Family engagement around the plan hasn’t been a priority, at either the state or local level, though recent state budgets allocated more funds for career counseling in high schools.

From the State Board of Education: “The High School and Beyond Plan must include a plan for the year after high school (WAC 180-51-066, WAC 180-51-067) It is also recommended, though not required that plans should include at least a career goal, an educational goal, a four-year course plan for high school, and identification of required assessments.”

Currently Seattle Public Schools offers neither uniform comprehensive career planning nor an online tool to help families track pathways. The state superintendent’s office has posted an online tool for educators, but there is no tool for families.


Bottom line, more will be asked of kids, but in return it could potentially be easier for them to design high school course loads that are meaningful to their life plans and better prepare them for careers. Currently, Washington students graduating from four-year universities are disproportionately white, and about 50 percent of students going to 2-year colleges and technical schools need to take remediation courses, usually in math. This means it costs some students a lot more to prepare for careers.

The goal is to prepare all high school students for life success, and give them the space and support to determine what that looks like.

Depending on what happens to scheduling and budgeting, kids could have more opportunities for electives and exploration. It also potentially makes it easier to expand career and technical education options.

Ramona Hattendorf,
Vice President, CPPS of Seattle
Member, Seattle Public Schools’ 24 Credit Task Force Force (2015-16)
Governor appointee, Career Education Opportunity Task Force (2013-14)

grad req

* In Seattle Public Schools, new graduation requirements are for 2021 and beyond, due to a waiver.


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 March 20, 2016  Posted by on March 20, 2016 Parent Line

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