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Social Studies

1. What is the role of the State Board of Education in graduation requirements?

RCW 28A.230.090 authorizes SBE to establish the state's graduation requirements. SBE has established essential credit requirements, a culminating project, and a high school and beyond plan (WAC 180-51-061, WAC 180-51-066, and WAC 180-51-067) as requirements to earn a high school diploma. In addition, the Washington State Legislature has established some graduation requirements, including graduation pathway options. SBE is responsible for writing rules to implement the graduation pathway options, and to set scores for meeting standard on state assessments and on some of the assessments used as graduation pathway options. 

2. What is the social studies graduation requirement?

Graduation requirement rules (WAC 180-51-067, WAC 180-51-068, and WAC 180-51-210) require three credits of social studies for graduation. The requirement includes one credit of US History, one-half credit of Contemporary World History, Geography and Problems (often referred to as Contemporary World Problems or CWP), one-half credit of Civics, and one credit of social studies elective.

The State Board of Education reduced the required credits in CWP from one credit to one-half credits and increased the social studies elective from one-half to one credit (new and amended rules were adopted at the November 2019 Board meeting, going into effect immediately). The purpose for this change was to provide districts with greater flexibility in meeting social studies requirements, including the civics requirement. It is recommended that one-half credits of a social studies elective remain in world history, to best align with the learning standards. Districts that wish to keep CWP as a one credit course may do so.
 

3. When does the new requirement that civics must be a “stand-alone” course take effect?

State law requires that “beginning with or before 2020-2021, each school district that operates a high school must provide a mandatory one-half credit stand-alone course in civics for each high school student.” (RCW 28A.230.094). State Board of Education rules clarify that the new requirement will apply to incoming ninth graders in the 2020-2021 school year, or the Class of 2024 (WAC 180-51-210). 

4. What is the required content of the civics credit?

The content of the civics requirement is outlined in statute in RCW 28A.230.094 and must include, but not be limited to:

  • Federal, state, and local government organization and procedures;
  • Rights and responsibilities of citizens addressed in the Washington State and United States Constitutions;
  • Current issues addressed at each level of government; and
  • Electoral issues, including elections, ballot measures, initiatives, and referenda.
  • The study and completion of the civics component of the federally administered naturalization test required of persons seeking to become naturalized US citizens.
  • The importance in a free society of living the basic values and character traits specified in RCW 28A.150.211

The OSPI social studies web pages provide information, materials, and resources for the new Civics graduation requirement.
 

5. Can the civics content be embedded in another course?

A “stand-alone” civics course means that the civics content may not be embedded in another course, and that the course should be transcribed as “Civics” on students’ transcripts. However, the law makes an exception for dual credit courses: “civics content and instruction required by this section may be embedded in social studies courses that offer students the opportunity to earn both high school and postsecondary credit.” (RCW 28A.230.094).

Dual credit courses that embed civics must include all the required civics content. Dual credit courses that embed civics may be transcribed as the dual credit course. The student will earn high school credit for the dual credit course, but may not earn additional high school credit for the embedded civics. The single dual credit social studies course may meet both a social studies course requirement and the civics requirement.

When a student meets the civics requirement through a dual credit course, the student will earn credit for the dual credit course, but they will not earn additional credit for civics. If the civics is embedded in a one-year, one-credit course, the student will earn one credit while meeting a one and one-half credit graduation requirement. 
 

6. Can civics be embedded in a Career and Technical Education course?

Generally, no. The only exception the law makes for embedding civics is in social studies dual credit courses: “civics content and instruction required by this section may be embedded in social studies courses that offer students the opportunity to earn both high school and postsecondary credit.” (RCW 28A.230.094). 

For a Career and Technical Education (CTE) course to meet the civics requirement it would need to 1) have a course equivalency for a social studies course (other than Civics), 2) be a dual credit course, and 3) address all the required civic content, along with addressing social studies and CTE learning standards. Districts have the authority to determine which courses meet which graduation requirements (WAC 180-51-025), and the determination should be based on the course addressing all the appropriate content learning standards. 

7. How should Civics be transcribed? How should it be transcribed when it is embedded in a dual credit course?

Most students will meet the civics requirement through a stand-alone Civics course. The course should be transcribed as “Civics.” When students meet the civics requirement through taking a dual credit course that embeds the civics content, the transcript should show the dual credit course. The State Board of Education will be working with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to explore whether a check box for meeting the civics requirement should be added to the transcript. 

8. How should districts meet the civics requirement involving the federally administered naturalization test?

According to statute (RCW 28A.230.094) the Civics course should include “the study and completion of the civics component of the federally administered naturalization test required of persons seeking to become naturalized United States citizens.” How districts teach and ensure the study and completion of the naturalization test is locally determined. In addition to the other required content, the Civics course should address the material that a naturalization test might cover. 

The 100 civics questions and answers, a resource of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, maybe useful for this required content of civics. 

9. Does Washington State History and Government need to be a semester course or can it be embedded within other content?

OSPI recommends delivery of Washington State History content in the 7th grade. The requirement in rule (WAC 392-410-120) is "a one-semester course -- i.e., 90 (50 minute) hours of instruction -- or its equivalent in Washington State history and government In grades seven through twelve combined, but not at each grade level." 

Washington State History content may be embedded in another course if the state history content is equivalent to what would have been taught in a semester stand-alone course. The successful completion of this requirement must be indicated on students’ transcripts.

10. Can districts award high school credit for Washington State History taken by students in middle school?

A Washington State History course offered in middle school for high school credit must be taught to high school learning standards, and be the same or equivalent to Washington State History courses taken by high school students, as required by RCW 28A.230.090(4).  Most middle school Washington State History courses do not currently meet this standard.  

11. Does my district need to offer Washington State History and Government credit opportunities at the high school level for those students who did not take the course in middle school?

Yes. If a student failed or did not take the course at the middle school level, then a district must provide opportunities to satisfy the credit in high school. Students who transfer from schools in another state before the completion of 10th grade must also be provided an opportunity to satisfy the credit. The law (WAC 180-51-067, WAC 180-51-068, WAC 180-51-210, and RCW 28A.230.060) allows the requirement to be waived by the principal for students who have transferred from schools in another state after the completion of 10th grade or for students that have already successfully completed a state history and government course in another state. 

The decision to waive the requirement, as well as the process for the waiver, are locally determined.

12. Can Washington State History and Government be waived for international students or students who transfer from another state or country?

Yes, students who transfer into the state in the 11th or 12th grade may have the Washington State History and Government requirement waived by their principal. The graduation requirement rules (WAC 180-51-067, WAC 180-51-068 and WAC 180-51-210) allows for the waiver of Washington State History and Government for two categories of students:

  1. students in 11th or 12th grade and who have not completed a course of study in Washington State History and Government because of previous residence outside the state, and
  2. students who have successfully completed a state history and government course of study in another state. Whether such a course was completed is based on interpretation of the student’s transcript, which is based on local policy for interpreting transcripts from other states.

The decision to waive the requirement, as well as the process for the waiver, are locally determined.

13. Is World History included in the social studies graduation requirements?

A World History course is not a specific graduation requirement, although world history is included in Washington State Social Studies Learning Standards for 9th and 10th grade.  A district could choose to offer this course as a social studies elective credit or as a local district requirement. 

14. Can a course in World History be counted as a Contemporary World Problems (CWP) credit?

A course in World History may be counted as a CWP credit if the course is taught as "contemporary world history". Ancient world history, for example, would not meet the requirements of a CWP credit. Typically, contemporary history covers the period since World War II. Please refer to the Washington State K-12 Social Studies Learning Standards for more information.

15. What are acceptable equivalencies for the Contemporary World Problems (CWP) credit?

WAC 180-51-210 states, "One-half credit shall be required in contemporary world history, geography, and problems. Courses in economics, sociology, civics (through the Class of 2023), political science, international relations, or related courses with emphasis on contemporary problems may be accepted as equivalencies."

The CWP course work should be contemporary geography and contemporary world problems. Typically, contemporary history covers the period since World War II. Please refer to the Washington State K-12 Social Studies Learning Standards for more information.