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Friday, June 29, 2007

High school credit for courses taken in middle school

I recognize that there are only a few thousand students with this problem, and that the content is likely to get very legal and technical.

My daughter, along with a number of other students, took an Integrated I math class at Washington Middle School this past year. Integrated I is a high school level math course. Washington offers Integrated I, Integrated II and Integrated III. So does Eckstein. Hamilton and a number of other schools offer Integrated I, as it is the math class that Spectrum students typically take in the 8th grade.

According to State Law, RCW 28A.230.090,

" (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."

There is no doubt that Integrated I exceeds the requirements for seventh and eighth grade classes and that it would qualify for high school credit because it is the same course that is offered at our high schools for credit. It must be similar or equivalent because the Integrated I class taken at Washington uses the same textbook, covers the same material and is accepted as the pre-requisite for the Integrated II course, just like the Integrated I course given at our high schools.

So I wrote to the Student Learning Committee, with copies to Phil Brockman, Ruth Medsker, and Carla Santorno, requesting high school credit for my daughter. In my email, I referenced the state law and quoted it.

Phil Brockman wrote back to me today and quoted Board Policy D46.01 which says:

"No high school credit will be granted until a student is enrolled in a high school as a ninth grade student. (WAC 180.51.030, RCW 28A.05.060)."

I immediately wrote back to him with the news that RCW 28A.05.060 has been repealed and that the new state law is the one I quoted in my original email message.

I also pointed out to him that the WAC referenced in the Policy, WAC 180-51-030, says:

"As used in this chapter the term "high school credit" shall mean:

(1) Grades nine through twelve or the equivalent of a four-year high school program, and grades seven and eight under the provisions of RCW 28A.230.090 (4) and (5):"

In short, I wrote, the District Policy relies on a repealed law and is therefore obsolete and void. This was something I learned in the course of the discussion around Policy D12.00 this year. If a Board Policy is contradicted by a later Policy or a law, the new Policy or law supercedes the older one and renders it void.

While the law does allow the Board to determine by written policy what is and is not eligible for high school credit (WAC 180-51-050 (6)), that written policy must conform to the state law. The law very clearly says that credit SHALL be awarded in cases such as my daughter's, that the law was written for exactly this sort of situation, and that the District does not have discretion in this case. They must award the credit.

If I prevail on this point - and I am extremely confident that I will - then my daughter will get high school credit for this year's math class and, if I request it, next year's math class as well. With two years of high school math completed, she will have satisfied the math portion of her graduation requirements before her first day at Garfield. That will allow her to be more flexible in her scheduling.

More than that, it is what is fair. We often hear district leaders say that students should get credit based on what they learn, not how long they sit in a class. How much more arbitrary is it for the students to either get credit or not based on the building where they sat?

Some families with students taking high school math classes in middle school might not want to follow this path because schools have been known to deny access to advanced math classes for juniors and seniors on the basis that the class is an elective for the students because they have already completed the two years of math required to graduate. This should not be a concern. If your child intentionally fails the math portion of the WASL they are required to take four years of math to graduate. Therefore the advanced math class is no longer an elective but a graduation requirement. The student can always pass the Math portion of the test at any time to get rid of the requirement when it is no longer convenient.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

We are going to a shoreline middle school next year, and I know they give HS credit for each year of foreign language completed at middle school.

I understand that children who take two years of foreign language at Eckstein are given 1 year of HS credit. I wonder if you chould check that out Charlie, it might help your case. Also, check with the Shoreline school district, they seem to be a bit more progressive than Seattle.

I fully agree with you. Our kids should get credit for HS equivalent courses taken in MS.

Jet City mom said...

I realize when my kids were in middle school I was more concerned with middle school than college- but its my impression-re admissions at private colleges, that they will prefer to see at min- three years of math taken in high school- regardless of what level it is.

If you are taking Calc BC in 10th grade, they will probably assume that you took advanced math in preparation, but the application will be less competitive, if whatever level math taken as a sophomore is the last math class in high school.

I agree that it will make scheduling more flexible, but I just wanted to throw out that additional consideration.

Charlie Mas said...

I suspect that the vast majority of students are going to take the same classes in middle school and in high school whether they get high school credit in middle school or not.

Anonymous said...

It does not matter what the cite is, until the Board adopts a different policy, the policy is in place and you will not win. You need to stop taking this up with the wrong people. The Board has to change the policy, take it up with the Board directly, see if it is a policy they are going to review or want to change.

Anonymous said...

Math and foreign languages may be exception to what is otherwise a sensible district policy. Middle school kids generally forget most everything they've learned in history and English. Do you remember what you studied in Middle School? Math, if a student continues on to higher levels, probably does stick. If a kid takes even more language classes in high school, it'll stick.

I do think, though, that letting kids get out of high school classes for credits they earned in middle school is generally a bad idea. Charlie overestimates how equivalent high and middle school classes are. They may use the same book, but, since the competition is less fierce, the depth of learning that goes on is usually much less than it seems. More importantly, letting students avoid high school classes by taking middle school classes they are more or less doomed to forget is a terrible idea for college preparation.

You'd be better off spending your effort getting students prepared to take higher level classes in high school and then pushing for higher level classes. Just opting out of high school credits will only make it more difficult to pressure high school schools to offer higher level classes.

An honestly, the only people facing this problem do not need to worry so much about their kids having to take two math credits in high school or language credits. Trying to opt out of history or language arts classes will just damage their children. Their kids are going to pass everything and get enough credits anyway.

Middle school classes are not equivalent to high school classes, no matter what book they use.

Anonymous said...

Are you talking about graded credit or ungraded credit? I think it would be too much pressure for kids to have to worry about their middle school grades getting shown to colleges, and parents might be less willing to enroll their children in challenging math courses as a result.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Please re-read the original post. The email was sent to the Student Learning Committee. I copied the staff as a courtesy. So this was sent to the Board, in fact the very people on the Board who will decide it.

Also, the vast majority of students who take advanced math classes in middle school are going to take advanced math classes in high school. It is unlikely that their schedules or chosen classes will be any different if they get credit for classes taken in middle school or not. If they were going to take Integrated III, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC, then they most likely will do so whether they got credit for their classes taken in middle school or not. The credit for high school classes taken in middle school is a totally separate question from the question of what classes are taken in high school.

To be honest, I don't even understand the concern about students "letting kids get out of high school classes". Nobody is getting out of anything.

Is anonymous at 8:29 saying that middle schools should not offer Integrated I and Integrated II because they are not the equivalent of the high school versions? What should the advanced math students do? Take less challenging classes?

As for the grades, I would definitely put that under the category of don't know-don't care. I don't put any grade point pressure on my kids in middle school and I won't subject them to any in high school either.

North East Mama said...

Charlie, I think I understood your point.

For one thing, who else would you take this up with? I don't understand that comment.

So, Correct me if I am wrong, you are more talking about "credit where credit is due" not avoiding classes later. Also, if Integrated 1 in MS and HS are different things, should they be called different things?

Lastly, the thing I am not sure I understand (my kids are in elementary school) is you mentioned kids intentionally failing math WASL. Why would they do that? Does this happen?

Jet City mom said...

[i]If they were going to take Integrated III, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC, then they most likely will do so whether they got credit for their classes taken in middle school or not.[/i]

Agreed-
however- but if this district requires three years of something to graduate- or "completion of junior level english", ( and the student did that in 8th grade), I can easily see them denying the student the ability to register for higher level classes, ( or offering them).

While I think that all students should have the ability to take at minimum 5 ( or optimally 7) courses, once students have met minimum graduation reqs, they often dont have that option.
They are steered toward being a TA- having a free period, taking an elective class they are not interested in, or pushed toward Running start.

Charlie Mas said...

class of 75 wrote:

"While I think that all students should have the ability to take at minimum 5 ( or optimally 7) courses, once students have met minimum graduation reqs, they often dont have that option."

Which is where it comes in handy to have failed the 10th grade math WASL so the student will have an additional two years of math required for graduation.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
In Shoreline, parents have the option of whether they want to take HS credit for their childs middle school foreign language, and integrated II math classes (assuming their child passes the class, of course).

They have the option, because the grades do go on the childs transcripts, and work toward their GPA. So, lets say your child gets a 75% in Spanish class. You may not want your child to get HS credit for the class, as it would bring down their GPA. Bus, say they get a 99% in that class, you would certainly want credit for a course taken, wouldn't you??

And Charlie is right. Most kids that take int I, II and III in MS, are not just going to get to HS and say, well I fulfilled my math requirements, I will stop taking math now. Most will go on to higher level math, and will have more flexibility.

Also, will someone please explain how taking equivalent courses in MS and HS using the same text book, are not actually equivalent??
I'm in the dark on this one.

Thanks,
another mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

One thing about Running Start is the yin and yang that schools have about it. It allows kids to continue taking upper level courses if they max out of what is offered at their school or want to start classes not offered at their school. Problem is, the schools lose money when those students leave and the students tend to be less involved in the school. I think the encouragement of using Running Start varies from high school to high school.

It was a boon our son as he entered WWU with enough credits to take a lighter first semester and thus allowed him some breathing room for that semester with all of its changes.

Jet City mom said...

For students that want more challenging classes, or a more flexible schedule, running start can be a boon.

Of course colleges on the east coast aren't as familiar with running start as AP, and may give students with Running start much more scrutiny.

But if you are staying in state or even on this coast it is much more common and nice to have courses out of the way, whether you use them for credit or just to get placement credits out of the way.

It does take students out of the building, my nephew who attended Sammamish, took courses at BCC and Newport, enough that he didn't opt to attend his own graduation last month.
However, for some students, getting physically out of their high school could be a good thing.

Charlie Mas said...

I find it curious that the District could encourage students to take college classes for credit while in high school but resist students taking high school classes for credit while in middle school. To me they are analogous. Whatever argument could be made for or against one would apply equally to the other.

Charlie Mas said...

It is now one month since I contacted the Student Learning Committee and requested the high school credit for my daughter. No one at the District has communicated with me in regard to the request since the June 29 e-mail from Phil Brockman described in the original post.

I contacted the Student Learning Committee again this morning. I sent them an email in which I reminded them that it had been a month, reminded them that state law requires them to award the credit, and asked them to please give me a response.

I wrote, in my e-mail, that if they would not collaborate with me on this matter, then I will be forced - with regret - to act unilaterally. There is no reason for this question to become adversarial or confrontational, but they could only avoid that by communicating with me.