Standard High School Graduation Requirements

Standard High School Graduation Requirements

The information below describes state high school graduation requirements as defined by state statutes and regulations. These requirements should be understood to show minimum course requirements, in that local boards may adopt graduation requirements above and beyond those mandated by the state. Policies reflect courses to be completed and do not include exit exam requirements. This database indicates where state policy specifies courses that may or must be completed to earn subject area credit.

With the exception of Nebraska and New Jersey, required coursework is expressed in Carnegie units, with one unit reflecting one year of coursework. Units defined in Idaho and Indiana policy have been translated from half-year to full-year units to maintain consistency. Exceptions and other circumstances related to completing high school graduation course requirements are included in the "Technical Notes and Citations" field at the end of each state's report. Subject area fields with a --- indicate that the state does not set course requirements for that subject. Where the number of state-mandated units in specific subjects falls below the total number of state-mandated units, this difference is indicated in the "total units" field rather than the "electives" field to reflect local districts' option to increase unit requirements in subject areas.

This information was gathered in January to August 2005 and is updated as new policies are enacted.

Last update: March 23, 2007

This database was compiled by Jennifer Dounay Zinth, project manager, ECS High School Policy Center. For questions, additions or corrections: 303.299.3689 or


Standard Diploma
English units (Std.) 3 (see notes)

Notes/Citation: Students must complete 3 units English that address reading, writing and communications.

Math units (Std.) 2
Social studies units (Std.) 2.5

Notes/Citation: Must include 1 unit U.S. history and government, .5 unit Washington State History and Government and 1 unit "contemporary world history, geography and problems."

Science units (Std.) 2, incl. 1 lab science
P.E./Health units (Std.) 2 (see notes)

Notes/Citation: 2 units "health and fitness."

Arts (Std.) 1
Foreign language (Std.) 0
Electives units (Std.) 5.5
Other units (Std.) Pre- and Eff. Class of 2008: 1 unit "Occupational Education" (see notes)
Notes/Citation: 'Occupational education' means credits resulting from a series of learning experiences designed to assist the student to acquire and demonstrate competency of skills under student learning goal four [Student Learning Goal 4: "Understand the importance of work and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities"] and which skills are required for success in current and emerging occupations. At a minimum, these competencies shall align with the definition of an exploratory course as proposed or adopted in the career and technical education program standards of the superintendent of public instruction."
TOTAL # units (Std.) 19
Eff. Class of 2008: 19
Other diploma options State offers honors designation option and proficiency-based credit option. State does not offer technical diploma option.
Technical notes and citations (Std.) Community colleges are authorized to award high school diplomas, provided they adhere to state board requirements for high schools. ·
Eff. Class of 2008: In addition to Carnegie unit requirements, all students must complete a "culminating project" and a "high school and beyond plan." "The [culminating] project consists of the student demonstrating both their learning competencies and preparations related to learning goals three and four. Each district shall define the process to implement this graduation requirement, including assessment criteria, in written district policy." The High School and Beyond Plan is to be "an education plan for their high school experience, including what they expect to do the year following graduation."
WASH. ADMIN. CODE § 180-51, 180-18-055, 180-50-120, 180-50-300, -315, -320, 392-121-182; WASH. REV. CODE ANN. § 28A.230.170, 28A.230.090, 28A.305.170, 28B.50.535
Planning and Counseling Requirement
State requires student to adopt learning plan (not including career pathway requirements) Yes, eff. Class of 2008. All students must adopt a "high school and beyond plan," "an education plan for their high school experience, including what they expect to do the year following graduation."
Additional Coursework Options and Requirements
State has policy on early graduation Yes. "A district may not adopt any policy which requires enrollment for either (a) a minimum number of semesters or trimesters or (b) a minimum number of courses in a semester or trimester which exceeds the enrollment time or courses necessary for a student to meet established course, credit, and test requirements for high school graduation." Statute also requires school district plans to include "how accelerated learning plans are developed and implemented for participating students" and allows such plans to be developed "for achieving state high school graduation standards...."
State has policy allowing students to meet coursework requirements through proficiency Yes. High school credit may mean "Satisfactory demonstration by a student of clearly identified competencies established pursuant to a process defined in written district policy. Districts are strongly advised to confirm with the higher education coordinating board that the award of competency-based high school credit meets the minimum college core admissions standards set by the higher education coordinating board for admission into a public, baccalaureate institution.... The state board of education shall notify the state board for community and technical colleges and the higher education coordinating board of any school or school district that awards high school credit" for demonstrated proficiency. In addition, local boards are required to "adopt written policies providing for the granting of high school graduation credit for alternative learning experiences, nonhigh school courses, work experience, and challenges. High school credits may be given for ... [c]redit based on competency testing, in lieu of enrollment or taking specific courses, may be granted by the district."
Required coursework aligned with college entrance requirements No
All high school students are required to declare a major/career pathway/career focus No. However, "Any middle school, junior high school, or high school using educational pathways shall ensure that all participating students will continue to have access to the courses and instruction necessary to meet admission requirements at baccalaureate institutions. Students shall be allowed to enter the educational pathway of their choice. Before accepting a student into an educational pathway, the school shall inform the student's parent of the pathway chosen, the opportunities available to the student through the pathway, and the career objectives the student will have exposure to while pursuing the pathway. Parents and students dissatisfied with the opportunities available through the selected educational pathway shall be provided with the opportunity to transfer the student to any other pathway provided in the school. Schools may not develop educational pathways that retain students in high school beyond the date they are eligible to graduate, and may not require students who transfer between pathways to complete pathway requirements beyond the date the student is eligible to graduate. Educational pathways may include, but are not limited to, programs such as work-based learning, school-to-work transition, tech prep, vocational-technical education, running start, and preparation for technical college, community college, or university education." The state board "strongly encourages districts to: ... Emphasize the integration of academic and vocational education in educational pathways...."
Sources Learning plan: WASH. ADMIN. CODE § 180-51-061
Early graduation: WASH. ADMIN. CODE § 180-51-020; WASH. REV. CODE. ANN. § 28A.165.025
Proficiency-based credit: WASH. ADMIN. CODE § 180-51-050, 180-51-110
Alignment: High school graduation requirements: WASH. ADMIN. CODE 180-51-060, § 28A.655.061; College admissions requirements: Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board Web site
Major: WASH. REV. CODE ANN. § 28A.600.160; 180-51-003

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