Frequently Asked Questions about New High School Graduation Requirements

Why are the high school graduation requirements changing?

The Idaho State Board of Education worked with all educational stakeholders to revise the high school graduation requirements to ensure all Idaho high school students receive the preparation they need to live, work and succeed in the 21st century, whether they choose to go on to postsecondary education, enter the work force or join the military. After a series of public meetings to gather input from all stakeholders, the Board proposed, and the Legislature approved, an increase in high school graduation requirements so every student must take the necessary science and math courses before leaving high school.

Will the state give school districts any additional funding to help implement the new requirements?

Yes. The State Board of Education put forth an initial estimate on additional funding and as the graduation requirements get closer, the Department will request increases to the public schools budget.

Do the increased math and science requirements reduce the number of electives a high school student can take?

No. The new rule will not impact how many elective credits students are required to take. Idaho high school students are still required to take 17 elective credits in order to graduate, the same amount students have been required to take prior to the new rule.

What, if any, professional development is the state planning to provide for teachers?

The Idaho Math Initiative will provide all math teachers with a significant amount of professional development, including a three-credit core math course that will focus on how students successfully learn math. The Math Initiative will also train regional math specialists who will be able to provide additional professional development at the regional level.

What is a Senior Project?

A Senior Project is a comprehensive assignment that is designed to be a culmination of each student's academic experiences from his/her high school career. Typically, Senior Projects include a paper, a portfolio, a presentation and a final product or culminating activity or event.

What are the state requirements for the Senior Project?

The only requirements from the state for the Senior Project are that it includes a research paper and oral presentation and must be completed by the end of the 12th grade year. The rule gives local school districts the flexibility to further define the Senior Project. Several school districts in Idaho already require a Senior Project. The State Department of Education is in the process of gathering examples of these Senior Projects already in place as well as other possible Senior Project ideas that may be utilized by districts. These examples will be posted on the Department's Web site for other school districts across the state to use in creating their own Senior Project requirements.

Will professional-technical courses count toward the new math and science credit requirements?

Yes. Professional-technical courses can count toward the new math and science credit requirements as long as they meet state content standards.

What level of math do students need to reach in order to graduate?

Under the new requirements, students need to complete a minimum of six credits in math, and two of these credits must be taken during the student's last year of high school. The math courses must include:

  • Two semesters of Algebra I or courses that meet Algebra I standards;
  • Two semesters of Geometry or courses that meet Geometry standards;
  • Two semesters of math of the student's choice.
What level of science do students need to reach in order to graduate?

Under the new requirements, students need to complete a minimum of six credits in science, and four of these credits must be laboratory courses. Secondary sciences shall include instruction in the following areas:

  • Biology;
  • Physical science or chemistry;
  • Earth, space, environment, or approved applied science.
Do students still need to pass the ISAT in order to graduate?

Yes. Students still must achieve proficiency or higher on the ISAT in math, reading and language usage in order to graduate from high school.

How will the state help students pay to take the college entrance exams since they are now required to take them?

Yes. The State Board of Education made a commitment exams would be paid for by the state. However, any funding request must be approved by the Legislature and the Governor.

If a student fails pre-algebra in 8th grade and needs to retake the course, can a student retake pre-algebra in high school and have it count as one of the three years of math?

No. Students are required to take six credits of secondary mathematics courses under the new graduation requirements. The following courses are secondary mathematics courses: Applied mathematics, business mathematics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, fundamentals of calculus, probability and statistics, discrete mathematics, and courses in mathematical problem solving and reasoning. Unless the school district can fit pre-algebra standards into one of those courses, it will not count.

How is the State Department of Education helping schools meet the new requirements?

Since the Legislature approved the new rule to increase high school graduation requirements in 2007, the State Department of Education has been working to assist school districts as much as possible in the implementation of these new requirements.

Here is a list of some of the things we have accomplished thus far as well as other items we are currently working to address:
Idaho Math Initiative: The Idaho Math Initiative was approved by the 2008 Legislature to roll out in the 2008-2009 school year. The goal of the Idaho Math Initiative is to ensure every student is prepared for higher levels of math by the time they reach the middle grades, high school, post-secondary education or the work force. The Math Initiative will offer professional development for teachers so we can reach this goal by helping teachers stay up-to-date on the most current research and methods in math education. As part of the Math Initiative, the Department also will be hiring regional math specialists who will be able to offer school districts ongoing professional development in math.

Math Content Standards: The State Department of Education worked with math educators across the state last year to develop content standards for the following higher-level math courses: Algebra I, Algebra II, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, Geometry, Math Analysis, Personal Finance Mathematics, Pre-Calculus/Algebra, Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry and Technical Mathematics. The new standards will go before the State Board of Education for approval in June 2008. Click Here to view the proposed standards.

Science Content Standards: The State Department of Education is beginning the process of developing Content Standards for Chemistry to meet the increased graduation requirements for science. These standards will be the minimum standards used by every school district in the state in order to establish a level of academic achievement necessary to graduate from Idaho's public schools. Each school district may set standards more rigorous than these state content standards but no district shall use any standards less rigorous than those established. The Department would like to have chemistry content standards developed for an initial reading with the State Board of Education in August 2008, with the plan that the standards could go before the Legislature for approval in 2009.

Funding for Gifted and Talented Teacher Training: The State Department of Education secured an additional $500,000 in the public schools budget to fund more professional development for teachers of gifted and talented programs. Under the new high school graduation requirements, school districts are required to offer at least one advanced opportunity to students, such as concurrent credit or Advanced Placement courses. This additional funding, which is ongoing and now totals $1 million, can be spent to train teachers for those advanced opportunity courses.

Changes in Certification Rules: The State Department of Education, with approval from the State Board of Education and Legislature, has made several changes to rules governing teacher certification to remove some of the unnecessary barriers that prevent qualified teachers from entering Idaho classrooms. Here are some of the changes that will help school districts to more easily hire teachers who can help meet the new graduation requirements:

  • Postsecondary specialist - This change will provide certification to meet the special needs of virtual schools, distance education and public school/postsecondary partnerships. Postsecondary faculty wishing to teach in K-12 classrooms could qualify for the Postsecondary Specialist in order to meet Highly Qualified status without having to earn a standard teaching certificate. This rule change will help school districts near a college or university to more easily offer advanced opportunity courses, such as concurrent credit courses, as required by the new graduation requirements.
  • Out-of-State Waivers - An out-of-state applicant for Idaho certification holding a current certificate may request a waiver from the requirement to take content, pedagogy and performance area assessments. The applicant shall provide evidence of passing a state-approved content, pedagogy and performance area assessment(s) or hold current National Board for Professional Standards Teaching Certificate. This change in rule will make it easier for school districts to hire out-of-state teachers.
  • Reinstatement of Expired Certificate - A non-renewable, three-year interim certificate may be issued to an applicant reinstating his/her expired Idaho certificate. During the validity period, the applicant must meet all current requirements listed for the specific certificate and endorsement(s), including the appropriate content, pedagogy and performance assessments.

Rural Education Task Force: The Rural Education Task Force, which started in 2007 and will continue its work throughout the 2008-2009 school year, is working to address teacher shortages in Idaho. The Task Force proposed several ideas to the 2008 Legislature, including bonuses for teachers who work in hard-to-fill positions or take on additional leadership duties. The Task Force will continue to find innovative ways to address these issues so schools in Idaho can more easily attract and retain qualified teachers.

Middle School Task Force: The Middle School Task Force is working to bring more rigor and relevance to the middle grades by identifying successful programs throughout the state and country that Idaho's junior high and middle schools can model to ensure every Idaho student is successful in high school and after graduation. The Task Force began meeting in 2007 and will continue its work through 2008. The group expects to present recommendations to the Legislature in January 2009. This work of this Task Force will help ensure all students are prepared for higher levels of learning when they enter high school.

Senior Project Templates: Several school districts in Idaho already require students to complete a Senior Project in order to graduate. The State Department of Education will be working with these districts to obtain examples and templates of Senior Projects that meet the new high school graduation requirements. These templates along with other possible programs that could be utilized for Senior Projects will be posted on the Department's Web site so other school districts can use these examples when developing their own Senior Project requirements.