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1. What is the State Board of Education's (SBE) role in science education?

Sherman STEAM student smiling in lab with goggles

The Board provides advocacy and strategic oversight of public education RCW 28A.305.130, and establishes state credit requirements for high school graduation. The Board also sets the cut scores on the state science assessments to establish the level of proficiency students are expected to attain. The SBE will approve the list of Career and Technical Education (CTE) science-equivalent courses and curriculum frameworks that will be developed by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Equivalent CTE courses are CTE courses with content that aligns not only with CTE standards but also with Next Generation Science Standards, that meet science graduation requirements (RCW 28A.700.070).


2. What is the Washington State science credit requirement for graduation?

For students who started the 9th grade before June 30, 2015, Washington requires two credits of science, including one credit of a laboratory science, in order to graduate from high school. Students who start 9th grade on or after July 1, 2015 (the Class of 2019 and beyond), are required to earn three credits of science, including at least two laboratory sciences, unless the student's home district applied for a waiver to extend implementation of the 24-credit graduation requirements by up to two years.

3. Are there Washington schools that require more than the state required credits of science?

Yes. Districts may set graduation requirements that exceed the state requirements. Based on 2013 reports from districts for Basic Education compliance, 51 districts (20% of districts with high schools) required three or four credits of science for high school graduation in 2013.

4. Does the state specify what the required science courses should be?

No. However, student who enter 9th grade after July 1, 2011 (Class of 2015 and beyond), are required to pass a Biology End-of-Course exam, so most student will take biology in 9th or 10th grade.

E2SHB 6552, passed by the Legislature in 2014, specifies that the content of the third credit of science for students in the Class of 2019 may be chosen by the student based on the student's interest and their high school and beyond plan, with the agreement of the student's parent or guardian or agreement of the school counselor or principal. Rules adopted by the State Board of Education, WAC 180-51-068, clarify that the school must give precedence to the direction of the parents or guardian, if provided, and that the request for agreement should be made in the predominant language of the parents or guardian to the extent feasible.

5. What is the science assessment requirement for graduation?

Washington requires students in the graduating class of 2015 to pass a statewide biology end-of-course assessment. More information about assessments is available on the OSPI State Testing webpage. A table of graduation requirements for the classes of 2012 to 2017, including required assessments, is available on the SBE website.

6. What is the definition of a laboratory?

Sherman STEAM student wearing goggles in science lab

Rules adopted by the State Board of Education, WAC 180-51-068, defines laboratory science:

"Laboratory science" means any instruction that provides opportunities for students to interact directly with the material world, or with data drawn from the material world, using the tools, data collection techniques, models  and theories of science. A laboratory science course meeting the requirement of section (3) may include courses conducted in classroom facilities specially designed for laboratory science, or coursework in traditional  classrooms, outdoor spaces, or other settings which accommodate elements of laboratory science as identified in this subsection;

This definition allows districts flexibility in offering science laboratory courses. Laboratory courses do not need to be offered in a dedicated laboratory facility, but could also be conducted in a traditional classroom, outdoors, or in a  combination of settings.

7. What is the responsibility of districts to offer Career and Technical Education equivalent courses in science?

RCW 28A.230.010 requires that boards of directors must provide high school students with the opportunity to access at least one CTE course that is considered equivalent to a mathematics course or at least one CTE that is considered equivalent to a science course as determined by OSPI and approved by the SBE. Students may access such courses at high schools, inter-district cooperatives, skill centers or branch or satellite skill centers, or through online learning or applicable running start vocational courses.

School boards of districts with fewer than two thousand students may apply to the SBE for a temporary waiver from the requirements of RCW 28A.230.010.

8. Does Advanced Placement Computer Science meet a science graduation requirement?

RCW 28A.230.097 requires school district board of directors to approve Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses as equivalent to high school mathematics or science, and must denote on a student's transcript that AP computer science qualifies as a math-based quantitative course for students who take the course in their senior year.

Page last updated: September 2014