Washoe Country School District

July 29, 2014

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High School Graduation Requirements

High School Proficiency Examination

In order to receive a standard high school diploma, students must pass all portions of the Nevada High School Proficiency Examination and meet all other district and state requirements. The Nevada High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) is aligned to the Nevada content standards adopted by the State Board of Education.
Nevada HSPE – Resources and Information for Students and Teachers

Diploma Requirements and Options

Diploma / Requirements Options

Standard High School Diploma

To be awarded a Standard High School Diploma, a student must earn a total of 22-1/2 credits and receive a passing score on the Nevada Proficiency Exams. Currently, 16 credits are required and 6-1/2 are electives.

The required courses are as follows:

English/Language Arts4 credits
Mathematics3 credits
Science2 credits
Physical Education or JROTC2 credits
World History1 credit
US History1 credit
Government1 credit
Arts/Humanities1 credit
Computer Literacy1/2 credit
Health or JROTC1/2 credit

High School Honors Diploma

The Honors Diploma is designed to enhance academic preparation and challenge students through more rigorous course work.

A 3.40 GPA, weighted and rounded to the nearest hundredth is required, with no course failures during the last two years, for the Honors Diploma.

The student must receive a passing score on the Nevada Proficiency Exams. A minimum of 24 credits are required to earn the Honors Diploma: 20 credits are required courses as outlined below and 4 credits are elective courses; 8 of the required courses must be designated as honors, including AP and/or IB courses; 2 of the required courses must be in the same World Language.

The required courses are as follows:

English/Language Arts4 credits
Mathematics (Algebra 1-2 and above)4 credits
Science (2 credits must be in Life Science/Biology, Chemistry or Physics)3 credits
World Language (2 credit must be in the same language)2 credits
World History or World Geography1 credit
US History 1 credit Government1 credit
Arts/Humanities1 credit
Physical Education or approved equivalent2 credits
Computer Literacy1/2 credit
Health or approved equivalent1/2 credit

Advanced Diploma

Beginning with the 2010 graduating class, a student can receive an Advanced Diploma by completing a minimum of 24 credits including all requirements for a Standard Diploma plus one additional credit of science and one additional credit of math. The minimum 3.25 GPA, weighted or un-weighted, includes all credits applicable toward graduation. The student must also pass the Nevada High School Proficiency Exams.

Adjusted Diploma

"Adjusted diploma" means a diploma which evidences the graduation from high school of a pupil with a disability after the pupil has met special requirements or adjusted standards. NAC 389.015 (NRS 385.080)

Standard Adult Diploma

"Adult standard diploma" means a diploma which evidences the graduation from high school of a person who has met the requirements for graduation through:

1. A program of adult education established by a school district: or
2. An alternative program for the education of pupils at risk of dropping out of high school established by a school district pursuant to NRS 388.537.

NAC 389.017 (NRS 385.080)

The Gateway Curriculum Frequently Asked Questions


The Gateway Curriculum is a series of recommended high school courses in which WCSD high school students will automatically enroll. Based on national trends and research, the courses are selected to ensure that a WCSD high school graduate is well-prepared for a wide range of post-secondary opportunities, both in education and employment. High school becomes a "gateway to choice," not a gatekeeper.

Does this change the District's high school graduation requirements?
No. The current requirements for graduation have NOT change.

What classes make up the GATEWAY CURRICULUM?

4 years of English
4 years of math
3 years of science
3 years of social studies
plus the remaining graduation and elective requirements.

How does the GATEWAY CURRICULUM differ from the current graduation requirements?

In two major ways:
3 years of science, rather than the two credits required for graduation
4 years of math, rather than the three credits required for graduation
In addition, seniors are automatically enrolled in six classes both semesters, if necessary for them to complete the recommended coursework.

Can a student opt out of the GATEWAY CURRICULUM?

Yes. A formal conference is required, including the student, parent, counselor, and an administrator. The conversation covers the student's abilities and aspirations, as well as the requirements of post-secondary employment and educational opportunities. Once the consequences of these course choices are clear for the student, and a consensus is reached, all in attendance sign an "informed consent" form, allowing the student to opt out of all or part of the Gateway Curriculum. Knowledgeable, supportive parent participation is extremely critical at this step in the process.

Why has WCSD adopted the GATEWAY CURRICULUM?

1. Thoughtful, informed course choice is essential. The courses a student takes in high school frequently determine what a student can do after high school. Beyond the high school graduation requirements, students usually select their classes based on suggestions from their parents, friends, counselors, and teachers. Without sound advice on the requirements of the workplace and post-secondary education, many students may not be aware of the importance of a third year of science and a fourth year of math. Students may inadvertently and unknowingly limit their choices after high school by not selecting and taking appropriate coursework while in high school. This policy encourages all students to take the classes that will prepare them to choose from a broad range of options after high school. High school must be a gateway, not a gatekeeper. Course selection should not be left to chance.

2. The needs of the workplace and the requirements of post-secondary education have converged. From the American Diploma Project (2004): "Successful preparation for both post-secondary education and employment requires learning the same rigorous English and mathematics content and skills. No longer do students planning to go to work after high school ,need a different and less rigorous curriculum than those planning to go to college." From the Education Trust (2004): "To have any chance of success in the world of work or in post-secondary education, high school students must regularly engage in rigorous, intellectually challenging work." High school should not serve to sort students into "college-goers" and "job-getters." All students need both post-secondary education and a job. The Gateway Curriculum is a gateway to choice in both post-secondary employment and education.

3. Too many WCSD high school graduates are currently under-prepared for either success in the workplace or in post-secondary education. The high school diploma has been losing its value. The Nevada Manufacturers Association states that "many employers spend time and money testing and training applicants because the existing high school diploma is not a good indicator of what the student knows." Anecdotal evidence from local employers indicates too many WCSD graduates cannot pass entry-level math and literacy tests. Remediation rates in math and English (43% of the Class of 2003) at TMCC and UNR are substantial. Students clearly need to take additional science and math to avoid remediation in college or the workplace and to advance their skills and knowledge. For economic reasons, the number of companies and post-secondary institutions providing remedial programs is decreasing, placing more importance on the level of skills applicants bring with them (Education Trust). The Gateway Curriculum produces a more meaningful high school diploma for most students which will, in turn, lower employers' hiring costs and college remediation costs in terms of both time and money.

4. The achievement gap among poor and minority students must close. There is evidence of the achievement gap at every district high school. It shows in course-taking patterns. It shows in selection of advanced courses, like honors and Advanced Placement. It shows in scores on the High School Proficiency Exam. It shows in honors and advanced diplomas. It shows in dropout and graduation rates. Many of our students already take the courses recommended in the Gateway Curriculum. To close the achievement gap, all students should be strongly encouraged to take these courses. To be meaningful, this encouragement requires preparation and support. Students must fully understand the consequences of choosing not to take these courses. The Gateway Curriculum provides for an informed conversation while setting the expectation that all students can and should be well-prepared.

5. A public education, symbolized by the high school diploma, must continue to have value. We know that additional education and a good job after high school make a significant difference in a student's ability to support him/herself, raise a family, and contribute as a citizen. Competition has never been more intense, both nationally and internationally. Math and science skills are more important than ever, given the technological focus of the new economy. Finally, as the Education Trust points out, "the benefits of good academic preparation accrue across racial and ethnic groups, making education the equalizer in the new economy." To encourage and assist all of our students to be well-prepared for both post-secondary employment and education is the right thing to do.

Won't this increase the dropout rate?

Based on evidence from the WCSD and other districts, we don't think so. The WCSD's dropout rate has plummeted since 1999, even though the state of Nevada increased the math requirement for graduation from two to three credits for freshman that year and even though WCSD effectively made Algebra 1 and Geometry the minimum math requirement for graduation in 2001. San Jose Unified School District has required Algebra 2 and three years of science for all graduates and has seen no increase in their dropout rate.

Are we trying to make every student go to college?

No. This is about preparing every WCSD student to be qualified for and successful in the workplace and postsecondary education – whichever they choose.

We cannot, in good conscience, say to a student that a high school diploma will be sufficient to support oneself and raise a family in the future. Times have changed. Every student needs post-secondary education of some kind, whether that be in a trade or technical school, military training, an apprenticeship program, a two-year community college, or a four-year university.

How will this affect electives?

With the Gateway Curriculum, students are able to take six electives credits plus the recommended eighteen credits for a total of twenty-four credits. This compares closely to 6.5 elective credits taken under the program of 22.5 credits currently required for graduation. In both programs of study cited here, one required credit includes an arts, humanities, or occupational course, which includes most elective areas. Thus students have two choices in elective areas most years they are in high school.

About 40% of our graduates already take the full equivalent of the Gateway Curriculum. Another 27% take at least three years of science, but not a fourth year of math and may not take six classes their senior year. For two-thirds of our students, the Gateway Curriculum means little or no change. A small percentage might lose just one semester elective credit over four years by taking the Gateway Curriculum, but with summer school, zero or seventh period courses, WOLF on-line courses, or earning high school credit in middle school, students can still take the same number of electives as they do now.

How does four years of math look under the Gateway Curriculum?

A student can take Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and then choose from a number of fourth-year advanced math options. The most important factors are that students take math all four years of high school, including Algebra 2. Employers and post-secondary institutions alike warn about rusty math skills and the need for remediation when students don't take math their senior year.

Why Algebra 2 for all? Math is an exercise in reasoning, thinking, and problem-solving. These are skills which most employers rate as "much more important than job-specific or computer skills." A consortium of employers and post-secondary educational institutions of all types worked together on the American Diploma Project. Nevada was part of this team. Their conclusion is that students need not only a specific number of courses but also a specific sequence of courses. For math, that sequence includes first-year algebra, geometry, and second-year algebra. The ADP's benchmarks support the fact that this sequence "will substantially increase the number of low-income and minority students, in particular, who graduate from high school academically prepared for college and work." Without a second year of algebra (Algebra 2), this curriculum is not the GATEWAY we intend for it to be.

What do WCSD parents say?

The WCSD commissioned a public opinion poll of a random sample of local elementary, middle and high school parents. There were 402 respondents. Here are some of the significant results:

1. 86.3% agree or strongly agree that more math and science is valuable in the current job market.

2. 73.2% are somewhat or very much in favor of automatically enrolling students in a third year of science.

3. 79.6% are somewhat or very much in favor of automatically enrolling students in a fourth year of math.

4. 74.4% agree or strongly agree that seniors in high school should attend a full day of school.

5. 86% expect their oldest child to attend a 4-year college or community college after high school graduation.

Clearly WCSD parents have high expectations of our schools. The Gateway Curriculum assist us in meeting those high expectations.

Where can I get more information?

Katherine Loudon, Counseling Coordinator WCSD 775-850-8012


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