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SBCTC thanks the Governor-appointed Adult Education Advisory Council for identifying the need for a new type of high school diploma option for adults and forming the original task force to begin this critical work. As chair, Karen Johnson, was the catalyst behind this innovative project.

SBCTC also acknowledges the Adult High School Diploma (AHSD) Task Force on the Council for Basic Skills in developing and guiding the High School 21+ program, as well as contributions of countless stakeholders in the basic skills community.

The High School+ (HS+) program, formerly known as HS 21+,  expands the options available for high school completion for adults 18-years-old and older who do not have a high school diploma. The HS+ program infuses basic skills classes, which can be counted toward a high school diploma, with more rigorous high-school and college readiness education and training so students can upgrade their skills while working toward a high school diploma.  By offering a comprehensive, competency-based approach tailored to adult learning styles, HS+ is designed to recognize the knowledge, skills, and abilities that adults have gained from life, work and academic experience.

With HS+, students follow a customized educational plan and advance as they meet required competencies. HS+ gives adults the opportunity to earn a diploma at Washington’s community and technical colleges so they can move forward with their educational and career goals.  Given that the majority of jobs in Washington State require at least a high school diploma and one year of college, the HS+ program is an imperative component of meeting the states workforce needs.

In the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the federal government highlighted the growing importance of high school completion. Adults with high school diplomas are better-prepared to enter college-level programs, earn certificates and degrees, and secure family-wage jobs. Earning a high school diploma is the foundational launching pad to I-BEST programs, workforce and career training, employment, and life-long learning.   Moreover, by providing opportunities for dual enrollment and dual credit attainment to HS+ students, colleges are able to help students move toward the credentials needed to be competitive in the workforce while also completing a high school diploma.

Partnerships and collaboration across college campuses, with community based organizations, local schools, and educational service districts create opportunities to serve higher numbers of students in a flexible, creative, and intentional fashion that draws upon the strengths of each stakeholder while leveraging resources to maximize the benefit to all.

The HS+ program serves as a foundational component of the Guided Pathways work that is occurring across the state by supporting students to identify their short and long-term goals from the very beginning of their academic journey.  HS+ can provide the contextualized learning environment where skills are taught, practiced and applied in areas of study, leading to post-secondary credentials that are increasingly necessary in order to procure living wage jobs and careers.  The competency based model of HS+ allows students to progress as they develop skills and meet outcomes rather than focusing solely on seat time — allowing students to greatly accelerate progression, often by-passing years of basic skills and developmental education.

  • HS+ aligns with the College and Career Readiness Standards and includes competency-based assessments that target gaps in academic learning and work readiness.
  • Mastery of competency is awarded for high school and college transcripts, prior learning portfolios, and knowledge gained from work, life, and military experience.
  • Advisors and Navigators work with students to create a customized action plan to address the needed competencies as identified in the appraisal process.
  • High school diplomas are awarded to adults 18 years old and older who demonstrate competency in reading, writing, and math in the context of science, history, government, art, health, occupational studies, and digital literacy. Students between the ages of 18 and 21 years old must also meet non-credit requirements that include a high school and beyond plan, state testing, or graduation pathway options.
  • Students pay the Basic Skills tuition rate of $25.00 or apply for a tuition waiver.
  • Community and technical colleges issue the high school diplomas. 

Authority for Community and Technical Colleges to award a high school diplomas was granted by RCW 28B.50.535. Associated rules and high school graduation requirements can be found in WAC 180-51-053 through WAC 180-51-230. A brief listing of the most relevant WACs are posted below for ease of use.

WAC 180-51-053: Community college high school diploma programs.

WAC 180-51-035: Applicable standards for graduation for students under and over the age of twenty-one.

WAC 180-51-056: Minimum requirements for high school graduation—Students entering the ninth grade prior to July 1, 2012 (the class of 2015 and previous classes).

WAC 180-51-067: State subject and credit requirements for high school graduation—Students entering the ninth grade on or after July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2015.

WAC 180-51-068: State subject and credit requirements for high school graduation—Students entering the ninth grade on or after July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2017.

WAC 180-51-201: Overview of the requirements for a high school diploma beginning in 2020.

WAC 180-51-115: Procedures for granting high school graduation credits for students with special educational needs.

HS+ Program Handbook
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Last Modified: 8/14/23, 7:35 AM

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