As Washington State High School seniors struggle to meet their graduation requirements, Gov. Ayse Insley on Tuesday signed into law a way to help students whose education has been disrupted by a coronavirus outbreak.
About 70% of Washington students still study part-time. With online education, in an ever-changing situation, many high school students who were on the verge of graduation fell behind.
“This bill will help students succeed in their life aspirations. “Our students have shown considerable resilience in the face of our recent challenges,” Inslin said during the bill’s signing.
HB 1121 enters into force immediately upon expedited retrial by the legislature.
Last spring, the Legislature forced the State Board of Education (SBE) to create a temporary waiver program for seniors after the school suddenly went online all over Washington. The last minute measurement was taken on the last day of the session and ended in July 2020.
The SBE says 12,000 rejections were issued last year, of which 3,000 were credit-related and 9,000 were rating-rated.
HB 1121 takes over where the 2020 waiver ended, this time permanently authorizing the SBE to grant school district emergency waivers to the next group of senior seniors.
The new law allows individual students to waive credit or testing requirements if their ability to meet them is impaired by an epidemic. Schools are still expected to help students meet normal needs before giving up a state of emergency as a last resort.
And that’s a lot more than COVID-19 terrain. The bill gives SBE continued authority to allow graduates to waive claims in any unforeseen situation in the future.
Following public emergencies and disasters, SBE may allow school districts to initiate immediate dropouts for each of their students on a case-by-case basis. That way, if another emergency occurs, no action by the legislature will be needed to help the affected seniors graduate.
Last year, the SBE estimated that more than 10,000 students would graduate in Washington, D.C., with no temporary waiver of emergency status.
Cindy McMullen, a member of the Central Valley School District Board, says 169 of her county’s 996 graduates used the waiver last spring. Although the district worked with those students to try to meet the normal requirements, he said that “it was simply not humanly possible.”
He said he expects that number to fall this year with better online education, but will not reach zero.
“We still have students struggling with the current situation,” he said during a hearing in January. “We do not believe that because they had to deal with this crisis, they should be punished.”
Some opponents are concerned about the quality of education under the new rules. R-Aberdeen spokesman Jim im Walsh said allowing students to circumvent the requirements could devalue a high school diploma.
The waiver minority had to justify the requirements of the loan or item. Most students had trouble completing the state’s “graduation path” requirement, which can only be met through double-credit courses or standardized tests such as the SAT և AP exams, many of which have been canceled.
The bill’s sponsor, Sharon Santos, of D-Seattle, said there were better ways to show that students were ready for college or a career, especially in an epidemic.
“COVID-19 has shown us that we, the state government, need to be prepared for anything,” Santos said. “Who knows what the next emergency might be?”