Changes to 2020 Graduation Requirements

COVID-19 Resources and Updates, Parent & Family Newsletter | 03/26/2020

Natalie Hester
Former State Organizing Director, Stand for Children Washington


Below is the sixth edition of our Parents & Families newsletter for the 2019-20 school year. If you'd like to receive this monthly in your email inbox, sign up here.

You can read our past newsletters here.

How are you doing? Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched with you as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world. But the reality is that for many families, it has been the closing of school buildings that really turned our worlds upside down. 

With normal routines out the window, I know that most of us are doing our best to just maintain our students’ mental health and emotional well-being, on top of our own. My team is dedicating our resources to be as helpful as we can for you and your students right now. If you have a moment, let me know what you and your family need most in our 1-minute survey. Your feedback will help guide our workshops, emails, and blog posts over the coming weeks so that we’re adding value and reducing stress.

In this month’s Parent & Family newsletter below, I have two sections of announcements: 

  • Free family workshops - our schedule of this month’s free family webinars

  • Graduation requirements during school building closures - a bulleted summary of the latest updates for Class of 2020 graduation requirements

Free family workshops

In an effort to continue providing support to families, we have moved all of our usual no-cost family engagement workshops to an online Zoom format. Below you'll find our schedule for April. Based on the feedback we’ve already received, we have specifically developed a workshop called Homeschool Survival Kit for Families. Every workshop is free to join, and I encourage you to register for any of the workshops that interest you. Don’t see any that you’d like? Your feedback is welcome!

Graduation requirements during school building closures: What we know 

This monthly newsletter serves as a place for our team at Stand to share resources that can help you navigate the K-12 education system. And that just got a whole lot more complicated. Pre-pandemic, my plan was for this newsletter to be the third in our three-part series about Washington graduation pathways. I’m going to continue with our planned topic today, but with a focus on how graduation is changing in the wake of school building closures. How will the class of 2020 be impacted? What graduation requirements are the same, and what will change over the next few months? Although I don’t have all the answers, today’s newsletter will summarize what we know so far. 

Things to know:

  • Your district is your best source of accurate, local information about graduation.

  • Each of Washington’s 294 districts is responsible for deciding how they individually will handle graduation requirements, with the guidelines from OSPI and waiver opportunities from the State Board of Education available to them.

  • Seniors are still required to meet some form of graduation requirements (read on for more specific information).

As I covered in our previous two newsletters, graduating in Washington includes three main components:

  • pass all required classes (also known as credit requirements)

  • complete a High School and Beyond Plan

  • demonstrate readiness for life after school - this is now known as a ‘Graduation Pathway’

Now, with school buildings closed for at least six weeks in Washington, state agencies and districts are working around the clock to figure out what’s next. This is especially relevant for this year’s seniors, who are currently waiting to find out if they will be back in their buildings again before graduation. Educators around the state are still hard at work, some providing childcare, others serving meals, and even more trying virtual distance learning for the first time. We’re all navigating this new reality together.

Although I don’t have all the answers, what I do have is guidance as of March 20th from the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) on how districts should approach graduation requirements this year. Below is our summary of that guidance, which is a great place to start for any parent with questions about what’s next.

Credit Requirements

  • The credits needed to graduate high school are likely going to be the part of graduation requirements most impacted by school building closures.
  • Usually, every student completes a certain number of classes ranging from 20-24 credits.
    • If you’re unsure, check with your district or high school to ensure you know what specific courses and how many credits your senior still needs in order to graduate.
    • However, with school building closures, the ways students earn those credits is going to shift.
    • Also, school districts are NOT required to make up school time beyond June 19th, although they may choose to do so.
  • Now, schools are encouraged to assess which core credits seniors NEED to complete for graduation and prioritize those.
    • “Schools should provide multiple options for seniors to demonstrate that they have met standard across required content areas.” - OSPI
  • Going forward, students can either MEET their credit requirements or, if they’re not able to do that, they could possibly WAIVE some of them
    • Meeting credit requirements might look like completing assigned work, taking a ‘competency-based assessment’, substituting credit for equivalent college or CTE courses, or earning two for one with CTE courses (read more detail here, on page 2).
  • If students cannot meet previous credit requirements in these ways, districts may help them WAIVE the requirements.
    • This option is dependent on the outcome of the State Board of Education meeting on March 26th and their rules to be released in April. Once the rules are decided, a district could apply for an emergency waiver to waive the requirement for certain credits, granted the students and district make a good faith effort.
    • However, until the State Board finishes their emergency rulemaking process and districts are informed of what the potential added waiver flexibility actually includes, educators are encouraged to continue prioritizing the delivery of continuous learning opportunities to seniors.

High School & Beyond Plan (HSBP)

  • As per OSPI’s guidance, this component of graduation is the same as before. Seniors should complete their HSBP and schools should ensure access is provided if it is not already online. 
  • In fact, if you’re wondering what your student has left to do before they graduate, the HSBP is a great resource to keep track. You can learn more about the High School and Beyond Plan in my newsletter series from the fall.

Graduation Pathways

  • For the Class of 2020, there are eight different graduation pathway options. You can read more about them in my previous emails in this series here.


  • District staff are encouraged to assess which graduation pathways seniors have already met, in alignment with their High School and Beyond Plans. It is likely that many students have already met their pathway requirement.
    • “Priority support should be given to seniors needing to complete specific coursework from this academic term to meet their chosen graduation pathway.” - OSPI
  • If your student planned to use the Smarter Balanced state assessment as their graduation pathway, but did not meet the cut score, they can still apply for an Expedited Assessment Appeals Waiver. This process has not changed from before school facilities closed, as of March 20th.
    • “An Expedited Assessment Appeals (EAA) Waiver can be approved only if an eligible student has demonstrated that he/she has the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the high school graduation standard and to successfully achieve his or her college or career goals.” - OSPI
  • If your student planned to use the Dual Credit pathway or had plans to re-take the SBA assessment as their pathway, there are considerations now for each, with school facilities being closed.
    • As of March 20, SBA state assessments are scheduled to be offered online in a testing window from April 27 - June 5 for seniors who want to re-take their assessment.
    • For the Dual Credit pathway, it depends on which program your student is a part of:
      • For exam-based dual credit classes like AP, IB, and Cambridge, students are not required to take the end-of-course exam from the respective organizations in order to achieve credit for a graduation pathway. However, as for achieving college credit, IB and Cambridge exams have been cancelled, with plans to provide certificates and credit in other ways. AP exams will be newly created at-home, shortened online tests with two testing date options.
      • For course-based dual credit like Running Start, College in the High School, and Career and Technical Education, students need to be in touch with their district and any corresponding higher education or CTE institutions about transitioning to online distance learning formats. Districts are advised to prioritize courses seniors need to complete in high volumes in order to graduate.

Local Graduation Requirements

  • Per their March 20th guidance, “OSPI encourages districts implementing additional locally determined graduation requirements to consider a temporary waiver for the Class of 2020.” In your district, this may look like a portfolio, a senior project, or volunteer hours.
    • “For districts that choose to maintain local graduation requirements, OSPI encourages districts to allow alternatives if social distancing and safety measures cannot be maintained and to provide seniors sufficient support in completing these requirements”
  • Contact your district to find out what the plan is for your student’s graduation requirements.

IEP requirements

  • OSPI has provided an extensive Q&A guideline for districts and families regarding the provision of IEP services during and beyond school facility closures.
  • They also have a Special Education Guidance page here.
  • The best place to start for questions about your student’s situation is by contacting your district.

Now, there are likely to be more changes to come in regards to graduation in the Class of 2020. At the very least, you and your student can get started gathering information from your district and making a plan for what to do in the meantime. We’ll keep you updated with information as it’s announced. 

With graduation coming up quickly, next month I’ll be transitioning to a new three-month newsletter series on Financial Aid in Washington. Even amidst the public health crisis we’re all in right now, questions about how to pay for your student’s higher education are still important, especially as we face the economic impacts of COVID-19 and statewide shutdowns. 

I’m still figuring out this new normal with my daughters both at home, but I’m confident we’ll get through this as a community stronger than ever. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at or 206-356-7078 if you have any questions or would like some help figuring out homeschooling. Or I’ll see you at our Homeschool Survival Kit Workshop for Families next week! 

Take care of yourself, your family, and your community. 

Standing with you, 


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