Advanced coursework is extremely beneficial for high ability students at all levels. At the secondary level, though, concerns about earning credits and grades may influence the decision to offer or take appropriately challenging coursework.
Schools often have difficulty determining how to assign credit for advanced coursework, especially at the middle school level. When middle school students take high school-level courses, it can be difficult to decide whether to assign credit for those courses at the middle school level, high school level, or both. See this post for more conversation on that issue.
Once a school decides how to grant credit, another conversation arises. If a middle school student is earning high school credit for a course, should their grade for that course be applied to their high school transcript? What if the grade is lower than the student typically earns and there are concerns about high school GPA and class rank?
We heard from one school about how they handled this situation: School personnel, parents, and students were concerned that by taking a challenging high school math course in middle school, the students’ high school GPAs will be affected before they even enter high school. As a result of these concerns, this school chose to offer the course as pass/fail, rather than as a graded course. This allowed the students to take the advanced course in middle school and earn high school credit, without their final grades being assigned on their high school transcript.
High school graduation requirements are another important consideration in handling this situation, however. In this particular school’s example, ungraded courses do not count toward the required number of courses in the content area. (For example, if a student needs 4 graded English courses to graduate, and they take the advanced Creative Writing course as pass/fail, that course would not count toward the graduation requirement.) This school gave students the option to convert the pass/fail marker assigned for the course taken in middle school back to the grade they received, therefore allowing that course to count toward the graduation requirement. They could make this change at any point in their high school career.
This allowance is important, because it makes it possible for students to complete high school requirements earlier than typical, opening up time in their schedules for further acceleration – including (but not limited to) early high school graduation and early entrance to college.
Let us know how your school handles credit conundrums using #IOAPA or in the comments below. For more information about IOAPA for middle school students, check out our middle school blog series or the IOAPA website.