Wednesday, August 20, 2008

High School Credit

Here is a state law, RCW 28A.230.090, which reads, in part:

(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.

Sincerely,

Susan Dersé
-----------------------------------------------------
Principal on Special Assignment

Assistant to the Director for High Schools
scderse@seattleschools.org
MS 32-515
252-0069 w

979-2612 c
"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.

11 comments:

Maureen said...

Isn't the fact that students who take Integrated I in MS are placed into Integrated II in HS a de facto acknowledgement that the MS class is "similar or equivalent" to the HS course? (Same for language and Integrated II)

hschinske said...

But you can place out of a class without necessarily having taken another such class. I've heard of a number of kids who skipped a year of the Integrated Math sequence, and some who've skipped a year in Japanese. So I don't think placement is everything as far as getting credit (nor do I think it necessarily should be).

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Helen, you are correct. However, if the placement is a direct consequence of the successful completion of the Integrated I course in middle school, and not a consequence of any other factor, then the placement is, in fact, a de facto recognition of the equivalency of the middle school course.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I thought the whole point of AP classes at Lowell and Washington was to have the student working two grade levels above. So it would seem that the Integrated Math I would definitely be equal to the Freshman equivalent in High School.
I could see if the course had been offered at a different school District, but shouldn't SPS know the quality level of their own programs?

dan dempsey said...

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.

What a statement coming from the SPS the crew that ignores their own School Board Policies and is now hung up on fidelity. What has been going on since July 1985 when the Promotion / non promotion policies were last revised?

read D43 D44 D45 D46

This is just another instance of long and continuing incompetence that the School Board fails to address.

Is it anyone's job to know what is required at any grade level or in any course?

Apparently NOT.

Disregarding State Law appears to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience in the SPS. Keep up the good work Charlie.

I would encourage people to read the Phi Delta Kappa curriculum audit and see just how much has been and continues to be ignored by SPS leaders.

Charlie Mas said...

You get what's weird about this, right?

It's the law that the students should be eligible for high school credit for these classes.

Everybody, from the Board on down, including the superintendent, the CAO, and the Director of High Schools, agrees that the students should get high school credit for these classes.

Everybody, from the Board on down, including the superintendent, the CAO, and the Director of High Schools, wants the students to get high school credit for these classes.

So all of these forces and people are all on the same side. The only resistance is from bureaucratic inertia - yet the bureaucratic inertia is winning.

How can it be that everyone in the institution is in favor of it, yet the institution still opposes it? That's madness.

Charlie Mas said...

I have had a phone conversation with Director Martin-Morris on this topic.

1. He, too, believes that this decision is the Board's, not the staff's. Actually, he seemed kind of angry about the usurption. He says he has the votes and that the Board will take action on this in September.

2. Unlike Ms Derse', Director Martin-Morris believes that if the District cannot say with confidence that the class is notably different (and they can't) that we should presume that the middle school versions of these classes are, in fact, equivalent to the high school versions. It is up to the staff to assure the equivalency of the courses.

3. Director Martin-Morris believes the credit SHOULD be retroactive and intends to award it to every student still in high school who requests it.

4. Director Martin-Morris also rejects the notion of predicating the credit on the teacher's qualifications.

In short, Director Martin-Morris, and the Board majority he represents, all share the same perspective on this matter. Moreover, they believe, as I do, that this is a twenty-minute problem - not a two-year one. He intends to open and close the book on this in September.

He will bring a motion to the Board to amend Policy D46.01, to name a list of courses that they will declare equivalent to ones taught in high school (the Integrated math classes, two years of world language, and the Washington State History class), and to make the credit available to any student still enrolled in high school who requests it. He doesn't anticipate much discussion and he has assured me of a majority of votes in support of the motion. There's your twenty-minute solution.

I look forward to the positive resolution of this issue within the next 60 days.

taylor said...

I have a student who took high school level foreign language (Spanish) in an eastside school district (WA state) in 8th grade and was given high school credit from that district. When we transferred into the Seattle Public Schools in 9th grade, we asked the high school guidance counselor at the beginning of the school year to check out to see if the transferred transcripts gave the student's HS credit for this advanced Spanish class. After two more inquiries, the high school guidance counselor told us via e-mail that there would not be high school credit.

How should we proceed? Should we go to a school board meeting and requested since we were denied at the beginning of 2007?

Charlie Mas said...

taylor, and anyone else interested in high school credit for classes taken in middle school, need only petition the Board for the credit. I did it via email. This was the full content of my message:

"From: Charlie Mas [mailto:charliemas@msn.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 8:07 AM
To: SchoolBoard
Subject: Petition for high school credit per RCW 28A.230.090

Members of the Seattle School Board,

I am writing to petition you for high school credit for my daughter, Xxxxx Xxx, for the Integrated I math class she took at Washington Middle School during the 2006-2007 school year.

Per RCW 28A.230.090, Section 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: ...
"(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."

I don't think there is any question that the Integrated I course at Washington exceeds the requirements for seventh grade classes. Nor is there any question that the course would qualify for high school credit because it is similar to the Integrated I course offered at district high schools. It only remains for the Board of directors to make that determination and grant the credit.

I look forward to your determination and high school credit awarded to my daughter.

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas
"

I don't think I can say it strongly enough:

Everyone who wants high school credit for classes taken in middle school should petition the Board for the credit.

While this is a matter of principle, and it shouldn't matter if the Board receives one petition or one hundred or one thousand, one thousand would be better.

T. said...

FYI- Charlie, have you read WAC 180-51-061? There is some more specific language about getting HS credit for WA State History which might be of interest.

Charlie Mas said...

I was familiar with this WAC and so did not usually include the Washington State History class on my list of courses available for high school credit. Director Martin-Morris, however, specifically mentioned it on his list of classes that should be eligible for credit.

Here is the WAC and here is what it says on this matter:

"(A) For purposes of the Washington state history and government requirement only, the term "secondary student" shall mean a student who is in one of the grades seven through twelve. If a district offers this course in the seventh or eighth grade, it can still count towards the state history and government graduation requirement. However, the course should only count as a high school credit if 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. (RCW 28A.230.090(4).)"