State Testing & Graduation

While WEA has always vigorously opposed high-stakes testing including use as a graduation requirement, at times Washington state policies have linked high-stakes tests to high school graduation requirements. From 2006 through 2009, by action of the State Board of Education, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) served as a graduation requirement.

In June of 2017, Washington was one of only 13 states that required high stakes graduation exams according to During this period students were required to pass state specific exit exams, or state-approved alternatives, to be eligible to earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) or high school diploma. Students who failed to achieve a minimum score, as adopted by the State Board of Education, on the state test, then had to navigate a system of alternative routes to graduation to earn their diploma. This system simply did not serve our students well and had a disparate impact on many of our historically marginalized student populations.

Washington finally delinked the state test from high school graduation requirements with the passage of HB 1599 in 2019. This legislation removed the testing requirement and replaced it with a system of graduation pathways. Starting with the Class of 2020, students must meet one or more pathways as a part of their graduation requirements (other state requirements for graduation include successful completion of required credits and the high school and beyond plan). Districts are encouraged to offer as many of the eight pathways as possible, but they are not required to offer all.

List of the Graduation Pathway Options

Beginning with the Class of 2020, students must meet at least one of these pathway options to graduate: 

  • State Assessment: Meet or exceed the graduation scores in the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics or in WA-AIM (Washington Access to Instruction & Measurement).
  • Dual Credit: Earn at least one high school credit in ELA and at least one high school credit in math in dual credit courses (Running Start, College in the High School, and/or Career and Technical Education dual credit courses).
  • AP/IB/Cambridge: For both ELA and math, earn a 3 or higher on certain Advanced Placement (AP) exams or a 4 or higher on certain International Baccalaureate (IB) exams or an E on certain Cambridge International exams, or pass the course with at least a C+.
  • SAT/ACT: Meet or exceed the graduation scores set by SBE in the math and ELA portions of the SAT or ACT.
  • Transition Course: Pass a transition course in ELA and math (for example, a Bridge to College course) which allows a student to place directly into a credit-bearing college level course.
  • Combination: Meet any combination of at least one ELA and one math option of those options listed in 1-5.
  • ASVAB: Meet standard on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) by scoring at least the minimum established by the military for eligibility to serve in a branch of the armed services.*
  • CTE Sequence: Complete a sequence of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.*

*Note: Students who pursue these pathways (ASVAB or CTE) do not need to meet English and math requirements separately. English and math content are embedded in both pathways—and a student who meets either the ASVAB standard or the CTE pathway requirements has met the graduation pathway requirement.

Visit State Board of Education webpage on graduation pathways for additional information.

The graduation pathways are part of three graduation requirements for students:

  1. Meeting credit requirements
  2. Successful completion of a high school and beyond plan
  3. Meeting one or more graduation pathways

More details on graduation requirements from State Board of Education.