High School Revisioning

Overshadowed by the Science Adoption is the current revisioning of high school in Seattle Public Schools.  Part of the change is the pending state requirement for 24 credits to graduate from high school (versus 20 credits).  Naturally, this has far-reaching consequences and needs.

One of the biggest questions is how students get all those credits under their belt and what happens to those who fall behind (known as credit retrieval) and/or those who wish to take courses not offered at their high school.

I attended the April 23rd Curriculum & Instruction meeting where this issue was discussed with the leads being Caleb Perkins, Director of College and Career Readiness, Emily Harrison, Project Manager for Secondary Revisioning, Kyle Kinoshita, Executive Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction and Diane DeBacker, CAO.

It is part of the agenda materials, starting on page 49.  (All bold mine.)

This Board Action Report makes edits to and renames Board Policy No. 2024, Online Learning. It also repeals Board Policy No. C16.00, Acceptance of Correspondence or College Courses for High School Credit. Relevant material from the repealed Board Policy No. C16.00 is incorporated into a revised 2024SP. The changes reflect recommendations from the High School Policy Work Group and Seattle Public Schools’ Internal Auditors.

During the 2017-18 School Year, Seattle Public Schools’ Internal Auditors audited online learning at a selection of high schools across the district, and reviewed Superintendent Procedure 2024SP, and determined that the procedure should be clearer to promote consistency between schools. Specifically, they raised a concern that there was confusion about which forms and permissions were required for taking online courses for high school credit, and shared that concern with the Department of College and Career Readiness (CCR). CCR acknowledged their concerns, and decided to bring the issue to the High School Policy Work Group. 
The High School Policy Work Group, consisting of high school principals, counselors, and academic intervention specialists, as well as central office staff, examined the School Board Policy and Superintendent Procedure for Online Learning, and agreed that it was confusing, but also noted that it was out of date, and not in line with current practices at high schools. It was also inequitable in a number of ways. Work group members, with feedback from central staff and principals, discussed revisions at length, and made the following recommendations:
  1. Rename Board Policy 2024 and Superintendent Procedure 2024SP from “Online
    Learning” to “Out-of-District Credits and Credit Recovery.”
  2. Divide 2024SP into two sections:
    a. Section 1: Out-of-District Credits for First Time Credit
    b. Section 2: Credit Recovery.
  3. Make all out-of-district credits for first time credit appear on high school transcripts
    as pass/no pass, rather than a letter grade.
  4. Create a decision tree to determine when principals/school administrators should
    approve students’ requests to take out-of-district credits for first time credit.
  5. Allow out-of-district credits for high school students only, not middle school
  6. Limit students to four out-of-district online credits for first time credit, instead of
  7. Repeal Board Policy C16.00, Acceptance of Correspondence or College Courses for
    High School Credit, and incorporate all relevant information into section 1 of 2024SP .
To note:
Note that approved changes to Board Policy No. 2024 and Superintendent Procedure 2024SP, and the repeal of Board Policy No. C16.00 will be effective July 1, 2019. Although the Board vote will take place on May 15, 2019, district staff will use the remainder of May and June to communicate approved changes to students, families, and school staff before those changes are enacted. Both Board Policy No. 2024 and Superintendent Procedure 2024SP will contain the following language: “This policy is effective July 1, 2019,” however, this language will be struck following that date.
I read thru the entire thing and I'm putting these items forth but I urge parents to read all of it. I also urge parents to review the Superintendent Procedure (which nearly every Board Policy has) which outlines, in detail, the proposed changes.  This starts on page 62.
  • While many students elect to take out-of-district courses for first time credit online, others choose to take those courses at colleges and universities, at private high schools, and at high schools in other nearby school districts. And, though many students do participate in online credit recovery, students are also able to access credit recovery through summer school offerings. 
The revised policy and procedure outline the state and district guidelines for taking online classes, but also include guidelines on all of the other manners in which students may take out-of-district and credit recovery classes.
  • The High School Policy Work Group advised that the best course of action was to divide the Superintendent Procedure into two sections. 
  • Section 1 applies to out-of-district courses for first time credit only, and students must always seek prior permission by filling out an Equivalency of Study Form. 
  • Section 2 applies to credit recovery only, and students do not need to fill out an Equivalency of Study Form in order to access credit recovery (except in rare cases when they are requesting permission to take out-of-district credit recovery).
  • Currently, when a student takes an out-of-district course, the letter grade the student receives is included in the student’s high school transcript and grade point average (GPA). The High School Policy Work Group was concerned that it was inequitable to allow these out-of-district courses to impact GPA, because students whose families can afford out-of-district courses can “shop around” for the easiest course in a particular subject, and use it to raise their GPA. Students whose families cannot afford to pay for out-of-district courses do not have the same option to raise their GPAs. Given that, the work group advised that it would be more equitable to make out-of-district courses appear on transcripts as pass/no pass, so that GPA will not be impacted.
  • Under the current Superintendent Procedure, principals have wide discretion to determine whether or not to approve a student’s request for out-of-district courses. In practice, some principals almost never give their approval, while other principals are much more accepting of out-of-district courses. This is inequitable, because it means that students in different high schools have different levels of access to out-of-district courses. 
In order to minimize this inequity, the High School Policy Work Group created a decision tree, incorporated into the revised Superintendent Procedure, to guide principals on when to approve out-of-district course requests. They should only approve the request if the student needs the course to graduate, and cannot take the course at his or her school, or if the student needs the course in order to get on track to access college preparatory courses during junior or senior year. Exceptions apply as outlined in procedure.
  • The High School Policy Work Group determined that middle school students should not be allowed to take out-of-district courses for high school credit. The middle school student’s principal is encouraged to avoid individually determining what out- of-district credits a student should be approved to take, when the credits will be applying to a high school of which the principal is not in charge. 
  • Furthermore, principals in the High School Policy Work Group flagged concerns that middle school students are currently taking out-of-district math classes so they can take more advanced math classes in high school. This is problematic given that out-of-district classes often do not prepare them adequately for the more advanced high school courses. Board Policy No. 2420 also addresses out-of-district high school credits for middle school students. College and Career Readiness is introducing a separate Board Action Report to recommend revisions to that policy, to ensure that there is no discrepancy between the language in 2024SP and Board Policy No. 2420.
    Currently, students are allowed to take up to eight online credits. Under the revised procedure, students will be limited to four out-of-district online credits, but will still be able to take up to eight online credits for credit recovery. High school principals who reviewed the revised procedure were concerned that eight out-of-district online credits was too many, but found four credits to be reasonable, as it allows a student to take a 0.5 credit course each semester. Exceptions will be considered for students facing extenuating circumstances.

    Board Policy No. 2024 is heavily revised to emphasize that students should have access to robust course offerings within the district, but that they should also have the flexibility to access rigorous out-of-district credits and credit recovery as needed. The policy directs the Superintendent to create processes for accessing out-of-district credits and credit recovery, and to create exceptions to those processes in certain circumstances. It is also revised to make clear there are multiple options for out-of- district credits, including online courses, in-person courses, and correspondence courses. And finally, it is revised to include information about costs and fees.
 I won't include the Equity Report on page 54 but I find it to be interesting reading that is short on explanation for some of the assumptions stated.


Anonymous said…
The process to "update" 2024 was a sham and the results are no better. To start, read the Community Engagement section of the BAR. Here is who is identified:

High School Policy Work Group (a small group of high school principals, school counselors, academic intervention specialists, and central staff members)

the entire cadre of high school principals, counselors, and academic intervention specialists

Board Directors

Sure these are important groups, but they are far from any type of community representation.

And the "stakeholders" that contributed to the equity analysis? Mostly principals.

Add to that not including a red-line version of proposed changes in the BAR(is that another Juneau change?) and it is clear community input is not wanted here.

Confused Insider
Stop Education Rationing said…
If you fail your classes, you can take 8 recovery credits. If you don't fail your classes, you can only take 4 credits. What's up with that? If 8 is acceptable, let everyone take 8.

Let's say a student wants to take all the normal high school stuff AND study Arabic at Seattle Central College. The way I read the decision tree, the student would be allowed to take the class (pass/fail) only if she did could not take a world language in high school. What if a student wanted to take 2 languages? Why can't the student have the credit and the grade for the class(es) on her high school transcript? Come on, no one is taking community college level Arabic classes for easy credit. SPS, did it ever occur to you that students might actually want to learn Arabic?

What if a middle school student wanted to take math over the summer and progress one year in math? He loves math. He takes a math class over the summer and passes with top marks, but with no SPS credit or grade. Even though he took them from a harder provider than SPS, whichever one. Does he take a placement test to skip the successfully completed course? How does he avoid having to repeat the class? Plenty of SPS students are working a year or two or some of them even three ahead of grade level in math. But only 49% of non-spectrum elementary schools offer walk-to math. So it's pretty easy to imagine a kid who's good at math but not lucky enough to attend an elementary school that encourages growth in a student who's above grade level.

This policy is sad. It only seems to envision lazy students who want easy work to inflate their grades. And it seems really fixated on students who are interested in the NCAA (mentions that 4 times!). If there's an athlete problem, fix that problem, SPS. Think more highly of your students. Encourage them to learn and grow and challenge themselves.
Summer said…
How widespread is this problem? Are we talking 24-36 kids out of 53,000? Does the policy need to be changed at all?

How about just a provision focused on those 36 kids? If they're mostly athletes, just require athlete scholars to pass in-district courses to maintain eligibility. Problem solved.

Makes no sense to keep others out of summer or evening classes or online classes if they want them, makes no sense to make credit retrieval one bit harder.

The policy would be easy to circumvent anyway: file paperwork to homeschool a given class, do it online, transfer credit. They have to accept it. By why force people that route? Just keep it easy and less bureaucratic.
kellie said…
There is a lot to unpack in this policy.

First of all, the way this group is approaching this "problem" presumes a full on "center of the universe" standpoint on the part of the folks doing the work. In other words, they are looking at this policy solely from the point of view of "Seattle Public Schools."

I find this problem repeats over and over again on the topic of high school. The State of Washington provides many paths to graduation for Washington Residents and these provisions are in place, regardless of any policy that Seattle makes.

That is why this policy is once again trying to restrict students to the minimum set of options GUARANTEED by OSPI. OSPI guaranteed access to online learning with services like Red Comet. Now that that door is open, SPS is not able to shut that door and pretending that they can, amounts to "education rationing."

As far as I can tell, this is a solution in search of a problem. Seattle has 19 unique high schools with very different sets of needs. A blanket policy is not in the best interest of students or schools.

We still have a handful of high schools that will be severely overcrowded. Online classes are a major relief value. Additionally, Core 24 is coming and schools need more flexibility, not less for credit retrieval.

Anonymous said…
@kellie, yes... but Core 24 is not coming, it's HERE! Current 10th grade students are required to meet the specific 24-credit requirements, and this is something that needed to be addressed over a year ago, when they were 9th graders and it was clear that a significant percentage were already off track to graduate on time given the new requirements. I absolutely agree that schools need more flexibility, not less.

The percentage not on track to graduate will likely be significantly higher after the first Core 24-impacted cohort finishes 10th grade next month. What percentage are off track after 2 years in high school? What's the plan to get them back on track? Will high schools focus on providing more classes to those at-risk students, even if that means providing fewer classes for those who are on-track...risking that they get off track too? Will they focus on providing more remedial classes and force students to Running Start if they need more advanced classes? Are counselors developing intervention plans for all students who have fallen behind, and are they also monitoring the "high school and beyond" plans for those who aren't yet off track, to make sure the schools are offering the needed classes?

In other words, what has the district done yet re: Core 24, and what are they going to do next? I find it incredible that Core 24 "planning" seems to be virtually nonexistent despite the fact that this was a known issue at least 5 years ago, and they they got a 2-year waiver for "planning" about 4 years ago.

Anonymous said…

The district is not required to grant high school credit for homeschooled students. It would be great if that were true.

Fairmount Parent
Summer R. said…
That is definitely true, but they almost always do. And certainly through CPP credit would almost always be given because the plan would usually be arranged in advance. The public schools don't like to lose even partial headcount from homeschooling, so they rarely make a stink about this kind of thing if the state requirements have been met or exceeded from the alternative plan.

The point, however, is that the policy change is silly and oddly broad for what the district seems actually to want to do. They can achieve their goal with something that is both equitable and much narrower.

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