In 2007, the Legislature directed that three credits of math be required for a high school diploma. This was the first substantial change in graduation requirements in decades, and it went into effect for the Class of 2013.
We examined data from the Comprehensive Education Data and Research System (CEDARS) on math credit accumulation by high school students. Plotted in orange in the figure below is the percent of students who completed three years or more of math by the end of their 12th grade year from 2012 to 2015. These data suggests that increasing the requirement from two to three credits increased the percentage of students who earned three credits of math by about nine percent, from 67 to 76 percent.
During the same time frame that more students were earning more credits of math in high school, there was a decrease in the percentage of recent high school graduates who attended a 2-year public community or technical college in Washington and enrolled in pre-college level (developmental or remedial) math courses. Data from the Washington Education Research and Data Center (High School Feedback Reports) are plotted in blue in the figure below. For high school graduates from 2009 to 2012, the percent who enrolled in pre-college math courses was 50 or 51. For high school graduates from 2013 to 2015 the percent enrolled in pre-college math courses decreased from 50 to 43 percent. The beginning of the decreasing trend appears to coincide with the Class of 2013, the first class required to take three credits of math. Increasing the requirement from two to three credits of math for high school graduation is associated with a decrease in the number of students needing remedial courses once they enter postsecondary institutions.
Note: The percentage of students who earned three credits of math does not include students who were exempted from math because of an Individualized Education Program. It also does not include students who met their math requirement through a Career and Technical Education equivalency course that was not transcribed as a math course.
Three credits in math including Algebra 2 or Integrated Math III are required for admission to a baccalaureate degree program in Washington, as part of the College Admissions Distribution Requirements (CADRs). Students who are capable of earning more math credits in high school but who don’t see themselves as college-bound until after graduation may be the students who benefit the most by increased math graduation requirements. These students are likely to take the minimum required in math. With three credits of math, they may be more ready for college level math at a two-year institution, able to meet CADRs for admission to a four-year institution, or be better prepared for an entry-level job or training program that requires math knowledge.
The State Board of Education does not support organizations using the Washington State Achievement Index to issue a series of A – F- grades for schools. We believe that the Achievement Index provides valuable information about a school’s performance, but we believe it is only part of the story, and not sufficient to label an individual school a failure.
We are particularly troubled by the designation of an “F-” grade, which doesn’t exist in any real sense, and comes across as a gratuitous effort to demean the hard work that schools are doing. A letter grade does not do justice to the complexity of school performance and increases the risk of alienation and demoralization for schools.
Each year, the State Board of Education and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction analyze school performance data through the Achievement Index. It’s the only statewide school accountability system recognized by both the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and State Board of Education.
The Achievement Index measures student proficiency in math, reading, writing and science, student growth, and college and career readiness. It identifies high-performing schools for recognition and low-performing schools for support. The Index emphasizes improvement and recognition, not punishment. An A-F grading system oversimplifies school data, and it doesn’t do justice to schools working hard to serve students in a number of areas.
Today, Board Chair Isabel Muñoz-Colón released the following statement regarding a legislative proposal to change state education policy governance:
“Each session, the State Board of Education welcomes discussion of what K-12 governance structure best ensures a high-quality education system for all Washington students. While we are still reviewing SB 5673 and HB 1886, they appear to contemplate a significant rewrite of state education policy oversight. Major education policy responsibilities would be moved away from public discourse among the education advocates on the Board and placed with a single executive, the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Changes on the scale the bills propose certainly deserve a robust public discussion and we look forward to working with the sponsors and other legislators to achieve the best possible outcomes for all students.”
State Board of Education Chair Isabel Muñoz-Colón issued the following statement on Gov. Inslee’s recent proposal to increase school funding:
“It’s clear to me that Gov. Inslee recognized the urgency to provide each and every student in the state access to quality education and is investing in closing opportunity gaps for our historically underserved populations. Under his plan, the state will invest in K-12 education to help students in the classroom now, and to attract the best educators for the next generation of students. I want to thank him for his leadership on teacher retention and professional development, as well as his proposal’s significant investments in the whole student through social and emotional health.”
“I wanted to take a moment to send a message on behalf of the State Board to our students in Washington. The Board takes seriously our mission to provide a high-quality education that prepares each and every one of our students for college, career, and life. We believe it is important to share with you and your families that the State Board of Education believes that one of our greatest treasures as a state is found in our diverse student population.
“As a daughter of Spanish-speaking parents who is now serving as the chair of the Washington State Board of Education, I want to personally reach out to our students of color, our young girls and women, and those who speak languages other than English. I have walked in your shoes and I know how hard the journey can be. Just know that I believe in your potential to do great things for our state and this country. Also know that there are those in your school buildings, in your community and in your state government that will continue to work hard to support you along the way. So keep your eyes on your goals, your feet moving forward, and know we got your back.”
— State Board of Education Chair Isabel Muñoz-Colón