Middle School IOAPA: Working Through Challenges

This is the final part of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  Read the first post here and the second post here.

To continue our discussion on middle school IOAPA implementation, we’ve been exploring various concerns and issues that schools might experience and possible ways that middle school IOAPA courses can still be effective. This week, we’ll discuss how to address possible concerns related to administration and credit issues.

  • Students cannot take advanced coursework because they cannot skip required courses. For many schools, a specific sequence of courses helps ensure that students are learning all that they need to know at an appropriate time. Generally speaking, middle school IOAPA courses should be offered in place of typical courses, which can often lead to concerns about filling all requirements. Teachers can prepare for this by determining what constitutes mastery of course concepts, and documenting how students demonstrate mastery through the IOAPA courses. As we discussed last week, any gaps can then be addressed via independent projects or other assignments to ensure students have attained mastery of all content required.
  • No, students absolutely cannot skip required courses. If students are unable to take middle school IOAPA courses in place of typical courses, we still encourage the use of these courses as part of gifted programming, independent study opportunities, or other available times in their schedules. Even if students are not obtaining course credit by completing courses in this way, they are still gaining valuable experience by gaining access to advanced materials.
  • How can students get credit for advanced classes? We encourage schools to consider these classes as an upper-level alternative to a traditionally available class. Again, teachers may need to work creatively to demonstrate that students are meeting the requirements necessary to pass both courses and providing additional educational experiences to fill in any gaps. For example, at Laurie’s school, middle school IOAPA students completed a portfolio of their work to demonstrate mastery of course topics to the faculty.
  • These courses are not aligned with our standards. Are there steps you can take to better align the courses with existing standards through the use of additional projects, portfolios, or other examinations?  If your school adheres to the Common Core, some courses are also aligned to the Common Core.
  • Where can I learn more about providing opportunities to high-ability students? The Belin-Blank Center website has many great resources related to acceleration and opportunities for high-ability students, including our new publication, A Nation Empowered. We also encourage schools considering these courses to check out our recommendations for assessing student eligibility to determine whether these courses would be a good fit.


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