(4) If requested by the student and his or her family, a student who has completed high school courses before attending high school shall be given high school credit which shall be applied to fulfilling high school graduation requirements if:
(a) The course was taken with high school students, if the academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes, and the student has successfully passed by completing the same course requirements and examinations as the high school students enrolled in the class; or
(b) The academic level of the course exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes and the course would qualify for high school credit, because the course is similar or equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district as determined by the school district board of directors.
This is pretty clear. The law says that the credit "shall be given"; it is a positive requirement on school districts - they must do it.
This law isn't new, but Seattle Public Schools does not comply with it. I recently requested high school credit for my daughter for an Integrated I math class she took at Washington Middle School. In response to my petition to the Board, I got this email from Susan Derse':
From: Derse, Susan
Sent: Tue 8/19/2008 2:17 PM
To: Derse, Susan
Cc: Tolley, Michael F; McMinimee, Shannon M
Subject: FW: Petition for high school credit per RCW 28A.230.090
HELLO MY FRIENDS, PLEASE WOULD YOU READ AND OFFER YOUR WISDOM?
Dear Mr. Mas,
Good afternoon. Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson and High School Director Michael Tolley have asked me to respond to your email dated August 12, 2008, in which you petition for high school credit for your daughter, Leila Mas, for the Integrated I mathematics course she took at Washington Middle School during the 2006-2007 school year. During the 2007-2008 school year, the High School Steering Committee formed a Grading Practices sub-committee to examine current grading policies and practices and to offer recommendations to the Steering Committee.
In an earlier email, I shared with you that during the 2007-2008 school year the Grading sub-committee would examine this matter. The sub-committee involved a number of stakeholders, including high school and middle school department heads, counselors and principals in our discussions of the “high school credit for middle school work” issue. We examined RCW 28A.230.090, noting the permissive language of the regulation, provided that “the course is similar or equivalent to a course offered at a high school in the district as determined by the school district board of directors.”
The committee’s recommendations with respect to changes of policy and practice in the area of grading have been examined and discussed by the High School Steering Committee, high school principals, many high school staff, Director Tolley, Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. Some of the recommendations essentially call for greater fidelity of implementation across the district of existing district procedures and policies. These recommendations are going forward right away.
For recommendations which involve changes to existing policies or practices, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has very correctly requested extensive stakeholder involvement during this coming school year, prior to presenting the proposed changes to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors. The issue of granting high school credit for middle school course work is part of this second group of recommendations. The High School Steering Committee is friendly to the proposal, contingent on several critical factors. Recommendations of the committee note these requirements:
1. The School Board shall certify that a course taught in middle school is identical to the high school course.
2. The middle school course must be taught by a teacher who meets the criteria for "highly qualified" for teaching the course at the high school level.
3. The final course grade and credit are not automatically added to the high school transcript. Students wishing to include the course credit and grade on their high school transcripts must formally apply to do so within the first five weeks of their freshman year. [The high school counseling office shall provide application to individual students who request them.]
4. The middle school must request an “S” course code be added for each course, and be listed in the course catalog, so that the students’ academic history documents contain the “S” code, which identifies the course as able to receive high school.
Over the course of the next six or seven months, this grading change and other recommendations of the committee will be shared with additional stakeholders, for input. Following extensive stakeholder engagement, we anticipate that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson will present grading policy recommendations to the Board of Directors in spring or summer of 2009, for implementation effective the Fall of 2009. The Grading Committee and High School Steering Committee recommend against making any of the changes in grading policy or practice retroactive.
At current time, the no course has been identified as equivalent between middle and high schools by the Board of Directors. In addition, although the language of the State of Washington’s RCW is permissive on this question, Seattle Public Schools’ Board Policy D46.01 speaks against your petition on behalf of your daughter, Leila. Finally, it is not accepted practice to grant credit to students retroactively. Therefore, your request for high school credit for Integrated Mathematics 1, taken by your daughter while attending middle school, is denied.
Principal on Special Assignment
Assistant to the Director for High Schools
"Improvement...is change with direction, sustained over time, that moves entire systems, raising the average level of quality and performance while at the same time decreasing the variation among units and engaging people in analysis and understanding of why some actions seem to work and others don't...Leadership is the guidance and direction of instructional improvement." (Richard F. Elmore)
I have a number of problems with this response, but my first is that I petitioned the Board for the credit, not Ms Derse'. I don't believe it is within her authority to either grant or deny it. The Board retains authority over grading policy and the Board alone - per the state law - makes the determination of which middle school classes qualify for high school credit. It is not for Ms Derse' nor Mr. Tolley nor Ms Santorno nor Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to make that determination.
Second, am I to understand that her committee has spent a year in indecisive inaction on this issue? Am I to believe that they are going to spend yet another year nattering away before they intend to comply with state law? You can read the law for yourself. It isn't that complicated a deal. How in the world are they spending two years on it? Does she get paid for this pace of production? How did she fall into this job?
Third, the three draft criteria listed by Ms Derse' are wrong. She says that the class will have to be "identical", but the law requires the District to award the credit if the class is "similar or equivalent". She would predicate the credit based on the teacher, but the law requires the District to award the credit without any such requirement. The suggestion opens up a whole new field of inequity between schools and opportunities if students at one middle school are eligible for high school credit while students at another middle school are not based on the teacher's C.V. Why must the student apply within the first five weeks of their freshman year? The law says that the District must award credit; it does not grant them any authority to constrain that with time limits. This regulation is not only inconsistent with the law, it is simply capricious. Similarly capricious is the suggestion that the credit cannot be awarded retroactively. The achievement is the same whether the class was taken this year, last year, or the year before. Again, the law requires the District to award the credit and does not grant them authority to find excuses not to.
Once again we see a situation in which Seattle Public Schools believes themselves to be above the law. They feel that they can take their sweet time complying with the law and that they can do it in a manner of their own choosing. I assure you that there are other authorities who have a lot more respect for the law and are more concerned with complaince than the District. I would hate to have to involve those authorities, but the District never wants to do anything the easy way.
Look, this should be a relatively simple matter. The Board just needs to meet for about twenty minutes and agree that the Integrated math classes and the world language classes are similar or equivalent to the same-titled classes in high school and are therefore eligible for credit. They should make the credit available retroactively at least to students who took the classes since the law was enacted. That's it. Why they can't manage this is beyond me. Perhaps someone has to do something to give the issue some urgency in their minds. What could someone do to compel the Board to address this matter and comply with state law? How do you get the District to comply with the law?
If there is anyone out there who is a lawyer and can throw about four hours of work at this, please contact me. I don't see how we can fail to win the case since the District has not complied with the law. If anything, the District's failure to act is all the evidence necessary to demonstrate non-compliance. They haven't decided that the classes aren't eligible, they just haven't decided. After we win you can petition the Court for legal expenses to be paid by the District. Of course, I would hope that we could come to a mutually acceptable resolution without Court proceedings, I just don't think we can bring them to the table without the threat of litigation.