Education bill adds flexibility for students, schools

Students creating models
Academic stakeholders are saying SB 6133 would allow more students to pursue career paths without fear of not fulfilling graduation requirements. Photo: COD Newsroom

Lawmakers in Olympia are hearing from stakeholders who say that SB 6133 will expand opportunities for students as they pursue careers, along with giving school districts more flexibility when developing curriculum.

The bill would modify Career and Technical Education (CTE) equivalency requirements to allow students to more broadly apply their CTE credits to graduation requirements.

The measure’s prime sponsor is State Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-25), and its cosponsors include State Sens. Lisa Wellman (D-41), Karen Keiser (D-33) and Bob Hasegawa (D-11).

During the Feb. 13 public hearing in the House Education Committee, Zeiger told panel members: “Expanding course equivalency will give more choices to CTE students, it will get more CTE students into CTE programs, it will keep more students in those programs and allow more students to graduate from those programs and then get into a successful career path.”

Washington state school districts must develop course equivalent CTE courses offered at high schools and skill centers. Beginning with the class of 2019, each student must earn one credit of CTE to graduate.

Under the bill, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) would be directed to create a framework for counting CTE credits for graduation requirements across more areas of studies. The framework’s acceptable equivalency courses include social studies, arts, world languages, physical education, English language arts, technology and engineering.

Becky Wallace, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education at OSPI, told lawmakers the office brought forward the bill “to provide more flexibility for students in earning their high school graduation requirements so that they can take courses that not only reflect their interests but align with their high school and beyond plan.”

She added that the legislation was borne out of requests from school districts wanting more flexibility in statewide equivalency options – beyond those offered in science and math.

Currently, there are 38 state frameworks across the six program areas of CTE, according to Wallace. If a state framework doesn’t reflect what a school district is doing locally, the districts often develop a local equivalency framework to reflect their curriculum. Those modified standards are no longer recorded in OSPI’s system as state frameworks.

Wallace said that industry-driven directives, similar to what is preset as part of Core Plus, are key to developing student skills and abilities while they prepare for a career.

“I think what is really successful is when you have industry sit at the table and say this is our identifiable need, and these are the competencies that a person needs to be able to demonstrate to be able to enter this career.”

Wallace said businesses such as Boeing invest in the education system by weighing in on and creating curriculum to meet job needs. While at a skill center, students can earn science, mathematics and English and language arts credits while working toward graduation and a future job.

“What we are seeing are students being directly hired by Boeing and a lot of the aerospace suppliers in the state after completion of high school. When they get hired by Boeing, they have benefits essentially day one and they will pay for their postsecondary next step if they choose to change careers.”

The bill is scheduled for executive action in the House Education Committee on Feb. 15.

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