Thursday, July 17, 2014

SBE adopted rules to implement 24 credit career and college ready diploma

Because of you, Washington State PTA was successful in working to promote key aspects of Senate Bill 6552 during the 2014 legislative session to make it better legislation for ALL kids.  On July 9 - 10, 2014, at the State Board of Education meeting in Spokane, public testimony was heard and rules were considered on the credit waiver and family engagement and the high school and beyond plan.  Below is the letter announcing the State Board of Education’s determination on these issues.

Dear stakeholders: 
Yesterday, at its meeting in Spokane, the State Board of Education adopted a set of rules to implement the 24 credit career and college ready diploma, as well as the other provisions of Senate Bill 6552 passed during the 2014 legislative session.
The Board would like to thank stakeholder groups for the unprecedented levels of stakeholder input, both in terms of the number of individuals testifying at our public hearing and community forums – many of whom traveled long distances to do so -- but also those that submitted written input. 
There are a few key issues presented in these rules.   I discuss three major issues discussed below, but the full text of the rules and the accompanying materials can be accessed on our website at:

Credit Waiver 
The issue that attracted the most stakeholder input concerned whether or not the rules should eliminate the restriction on waiving core credits established in the Board’s January 2014 adopted framework – the framework adopted under SB 6552.  The Board received extensive input, mostly centering on the question of what the Legislature intended in this section of law.  During the public input process, the Board received two letters from groups of legislators, essentially asserting opposing views on what was intended for the waiver under SB 6552 (both letters can be found on our website).  Faced with these opposing views of legislative intent from the legislators themselves, the Board and its staff interpreted the law to the best of its ability, and the Board did what it believed to be in the best interests of students in Washington state.  The vote to adopt rules consistent with the Board’s 2014 Resolution on this issue – excluding core credits from those than could be waived – passed by a vote of 8-5.  Superintendent Dorn was not able to stay for the vote, but did indicate to the Board that he believed the statutory language and legislative intent was ultimately not clear.  At the meeting, the Board heard more than three hours of testimony on the waiver topic, ranging from analyses of the statutory language to emotional pleas from communities of color and parent advocates emphasizing parent engagement and guaranteed access to core academic material for all students in high school. 
Parent Engagement 
A second issue present in the rules was the issue of parent engagement in the selection of the third credit of math and science.   The rules make clear now (as did the law) that Algebra II is no longer the presumptive third credit of math – rather, it is student choice.  On this issue, the Board established that among the various parties listed in SB 6552 who may approve a student’s course selection, the parent’s input takes precedence over other parties, and when input is solicited, it should be done in the parent’s native language when feasible. 
High School and Beyond Plan  
A third issue was the high school and beyond plan.  The board opted not to adopt the definitional provisions for the high school and beyond plan included in original published rule.   This was in response to extensive input, both from legislators and from school district personnel, that the clarity provided in what constitutes a high quality high school and beyond plan may need additional dialogue, and may need to take several different forms, including non-regulatory guidance, and a legislative proposal during the 2015 legislative session. 
The Board understands the competing pressures on school districts at this juncture, particularly in this era of constitutionally inadequate funding, and has committed to a process of continuous ‘sense-making’ and streamlining with the various reform demands being placed on school districts.  In those areas where the Board lacks direct statutory authority, it can advise the Legislature in this regard.  That discussion will continue in fall when the Board discusses, with Superintendent Dorn and his staff, and the Legislature, the assessment components of high school graduation requirements. 
Finally, the Board wants its stakeholder partners to know that everything it does is guided by what it believes is best for students.  We hold that to be true for all of us doing this important work – board members, advocates, parents, teachers, school leaders, and legislators.  That is ultimately the sentiment behind the adoption of these rules: its right for kids. 
Sincerest regards, 
Ben Rarick,
Executive Director

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