February 24, 2022

Arizona’s High School Graduation Requirements: Spotlight on Math

Arizona’s high school graduation requirements set the bar for what courses students need to take while they are in high school. But more importantly, they communicate to students what they need to be successful in their postsecondary education and careers after high school.

Learn more about Arizona’s high school graduation requirements, why they matter and the current proposal to change them.

What are Arizona’s Graduation Requirements?

Arizona students currently are required to take four years of English, four years of math, three years of science, three years of history or social sciences, one year of fine arts or career and technical education (CTE) and seven courses that are determined by school districts and charter schools directly. (See the chart below.)

These graduation requirements are the minimum expectations for graduation. School districts and charter schools may increase expectations, but may not lower them.

What Math Courses do Students Need to Graduate from High School?

Arizona high school students are required to take four years of math, including passing Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. The fourth year of math is flexible and can be met by a number of different courses.

Flexibility in Meeting the Math Requirement

The current graduation requirements offer flexibility to students to meet the math requirement in a few ways:

  • Students can substitute another course to meet the Algebra 2 requirement, including a CTE, economics, science, computer science, art or other course. School districts and charter schools determine the specific courses that meet this requirement.
  • Students can also use a personal curriculum to opt out of Algebra 2 and graduate with three years of math instead of four. Read more about the personal curriculum here.
  • There are a number of options to meet the fourth year of math requirement. See the list of CTE courses that can be used to meet the fourth year of math, for example.

How Do the Math Requirements Align with College and Career?

Arizona’s community college system is open entry, meaning there aren’t a specific set of math requirements prescribed. However, it’s generally acknowledged that students who take higher levels of math in high school spend less time and money getting caught up in math in college, especially in fields where math is important.

For Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, entry requirements include taking four years of math, including Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2, with the fourth year being an advanced math class for which Algebra 2 is a prerequisite. Northern Arizona University has similar requirements and has just recently been approved to pilot a new set of entry guidelines that no longer require the fourth year of math to be a prerequisite of Algebra 2. The pilot will begin with the incoming class of fall 2023.

Advanced training or certification programs vary, with most being open entry.

The Current Debate About the High School Graduation Requirements

The legislature is considering a bill (HB2278) that would change high school graduation requirements by eliminating the requirement for Algebra 2 and the fourth year of math. The concept behind this bill is that if graduation requirements are lowered, more students will graduate.

When times get hard, we shouldn’t lower expectations –
we should raise the level of support to help our students succeed

We believe this bill will limit the opportunity for Arizona students to pursue a postsecondary education or career. It may unfairly track students into a less rigorous pathway, even though they are able to do the work. Lowering expectations will not help our students reach their full potential, nor will it help Arizona meet the state’s Achieve60AZ attainment goal and build a strong future economy. Also, the current high school graduation requirements already allow for flexibility to meet the Algebra 2 requirement, a personal curriculum, and flexible options to meet the 4th year of math requirement.

Math often gets a bad rap, but it provides an important foundation for our students to succeed. We can’t lower expectations for our students now and expect more students to go onto postsecondary education.

Join us in keeping our graduation requirements strong. Email the Senate Education Committee today.