Superintendent Reykdal Releases Plan for Work Experience in School to Contribute to Graduation

A student poses for a photo behind a supermarket cash register.

OLYMPIA — August 4, 2022 — Nearly 30% (45,000–55,000) of Washington’s students are employed in high school. In a media briefing today, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced his plan to allow students ages 16+ to earn elective credits toward their high school diploma through paid work experience that is verified by their school.

“Through work experience, students learn employability and leadership skills — skills like interpersonal communication, personal finance, time management, taking direction, receiving critical feedback, and following through on commitments — that support their long-term success in the workforce and in life,” Reykdal said.

To earn a high school diploma in Washington, students must earn 17 credits in core subjects aligning with university admissions requirements, complete a graduation pathway and meet personalized pathway requirements, and earn 4 credits in elective subjects.

Under Reykdal’s plan, students could earn credits at a rate of 1 elective credit for 360 hours worked or 0.5 elective credits for 180 hours worked. Students will be allowed to earn up to 4 elective credits through work experience, and no more than 2 of those credits may be earned in a year.

“I was in student government, played three sports a year, and had a full course load, but I also had to work all through high school to help my family,” said Andre Byoune Jr., a recent graduate. “If I could have earned even elective credit for some of that work, it would have taken so much pressure off me. This is a great opportunity for future students!”

Providing students with the ability to earn elective credits for their efforts at work further honors the differing pathways that students choose for themselves, and recognizes the knowledge, skills, and abilities students acquire through paid employment.

“Helping equip the next generation to succeed in the workforce is critically important for the health of our families, our communities and our economy,” said Dave Mastin, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Association of Washington Business. “Giving students the opportunity to earn elective credits for their after-school and summer jobs validates the important role that work plays in their growth and development, and will hopefully encourage more young people to get a start on acquiring the important life skills that are gained through work experience.”

To earn elective credit for their work hours, students will be required to provide verification of employment to their school. Their school will be responsible for verifying employment, reaching out to employers to monitor student progress, and for keeping students’ High School and Beyond Plans updated with their work experience.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will initiate rulemaking for this proposal; aiming to have the new program in place by the beginning of the 2023–24 school year. School districts will be required to report student participation and elective credit attainment via verified paid work experience to OSPI.

The plan to provide high school students with the opportunity to earn elective credit toward graduation through verified paid work experience is the second in a series of transformational budget and policy proposals Superintendent Reykdal will unveil through November called Washington State Innovates: K–12 Education for the 21st Century and Beyond.

Yellow and blue graphic with OSPI logo saying: Washington State Innovates: Elective Credit for Work Hours

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