CHEYENNE — Wyoming is one of three states requiring the fewest high school credits needed to earn a standard diploma, according to a new report on states' graduation policies and rates.
Wyoming, California and Wisconsin require students to earn 13 credits to graduate, while the national average is 20.5 credits, according to the report by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia require 24 credits, making them the highest in the nation. Twenty-six states require at least 21 credits.
Annette Bohling, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, said the report is misleading because while the state requires just 13 credits, each district imposes an additional 12 to 15 credits.
Thus, Wyoming students really need 25 to 28 credits to graduate, not just 13, Bohling said.
Wyoming also does not require high school students to pass an exit exam, which are administered in 23 states, according to the report.
Bohling said Wyoming's system uses a "body of evidence" taken over the four-year high school career of a student rather than a single exam.
"We have a pretty robust system to prove that a child has learned," she said.
The report calculated that 74 percent of Wyoming's teenagers graduated with their high school classes in 2002-2003, which ranks it 22nd among the 50 states and is close to the state's own calculation of 77 percent. The national graduation rate is 69.6 percent.
State Superintendent Jim McBride and the department are working on ways to keep more students from dropping out of high school, Bohling said.
One solution is to change state law that allows students to drop out in the 10th grade at age 16, Bohling said. The report noted that most of Wyoming's school dropouts occur in the 10th grade.
McBride is working to convince state lawmakers to change the law to 12th grade or age 18, she said.
"We think it would make a significant difference," she said.