K-12 Students Choose from Seven Education Pathways in Washington State

In Washington State, the Board of Education has recognized that student career goals are not all the same. School districts are now required to implement the "High school and Beyond Plan (HSBP)." According to the Spokesman-Review (Nov.29, 2019), referring to the Education Research and Data Center, "About 34% of Washington students enrolled in a four-year college the year after they graduated, 28% pursued a two-year or technical degree and 38% didn't enroll in a higher education program." HSBP's purpose is to provide a personalized plan that meets every student's future career goals.

Districts are expected to begin the HSBP in the 7th or 8th grade with an assessment of a student's skills and interests. The personalized plan would be continually revised over the next four years so that by the time the student is ready to graduate, he/she would meet the state and local requirements and the plan would align with the student's career goals. HSBP requires the student to pass one of seven pathways in order to receive a diploma.

The Spokesman-Review summarized the State Board of Education's seven pathways:
(For a more detailed description of each of the pathways go to: https://www.sbe.wa.gov/our-work/high-school-and-beyond-plan)

  1. Passing Smarter Balanced Assessments. These tests measure understanding of English and math.
  2. Earning college credit through dual-credit programs with a local university or college. These programs partner the high school with a college.
  3. Passing Advanced Placement exams.
  4. Passing college admissions exams. Students who meet certain requirements on the SAT and ACT can use their test scores to pass the state requirement.
  5. Passing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which is required to enter the armed services.
  6. Earning credits through career and technical education (CTE) courses.
  7. Taking Bridge to College courses.

Although there are critics who believe HSBP devalues the high school diploma, the plan appears to be moving in the right direction. The state board's executive director, Randy Spaulding, said, "This takes some emphasis off testing in our system, which is a positive thing. It also puts students' different pathways and their goals on a level playing field." Mr. Spaulding must be on to something as the University of California is in the process of eliminating the ACT/SAT for all California students, making the tests optional in 2021 and beyond. In a recent CNBC report, Abigail Hess pointed to several university research papers noting the bias of these tests, and predictions that other universities will also make admission testing optional. (See: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/22/uc-plans-to-phase-out-sat-and-act-other-schools-may-follow-suit.html)

By: Nancy Rubesch
Standards Correlator