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Ready for college and careers in Washington state? How secondary and postsecondary outcomes change for diverse populations when new graduation requirements take effect


Description: Washington state's class of 2019 is preparing for more rigorous high school graduation requirements that are aligned with state public college admission requirements. Local and state leaders are concerned about how these changes might affect graduation rates and postsecondary outcomes, especially for rural, English learner, racially/ethnically diverse, and economically disadvantaged students—groups that have persistently lower graduation rates than the state average.

This study aims to improve ongoing implementation efforts by helping stakeholders better understand how increases in credit requirements relate to high school outcomes, completion, and postsecondary readiness across the state. Specifically, the study will provide information about gaps between current district requirements and the new state requirements—as well as the extent to which students from earlier graduation classes and different demographic groups are meeting the new requirements.

Other states considering changes to high school graduation requirements may also find the study useful. In addition, it will contribute new evidence to a body of research on the relationship between increasing high school graduation requirements and secondary and postsecondary student outcomes, with an emphasis on impacts to rural, English learner, racially/ethnically diverse, and economically disadvantaged students.

Research questions:

  1. How do district requirements for the class of 2017 compare with the new state requirements for the class of 2019?
    1. How do the characteristics of districts that need to increase their graduation requirements to meet the requirements for the class of 2019 differ from those that already meet the new requirements?
  2. To what extent did students who exited high school between 2012/13 and 2016/17 meet the new 2019 credit requirements?
  3. What are differences in high school academic performance, high school completion, and postsecondary readiness before and after district-level increases in high school graduation credit requirements?

Study design: For this descriptive study, REL Northwest researchers will leverage a comprehensive set of individual-level longitudinal data, which will enable an in-depth exploration of high school transcripts, school characteristics, and postsecondary outcomes. Using these longitudinal data, the study will offer robust descriptive analyses to model trends in student outcomes before and after a change in graduation credit requirements.

Projected release date: Fall 2020

Partnership or research alliance: Non-partnership study

Related products: What's Happening? report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:
Havala Hanson, REL Northwest at Education Northwest