Meeting of the Board of Regents | April 2009
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Draft Proposed Policy on “Making-up” Course Credit and Receiving Course Credit for Independent Study
April 13, 2009
Issue for Discussion
Should the Regents establish a policy on “making up” course credit and receiving course credit for independent study? Should the draft proposed policy be released to the field for input and advice?
Reason for Consideration
Review of Policy
This item will be before the EMSC Committee for discussion in April 2009.
Regents Regulations have for many years contained detailed provisions for awarding units of credit to students. Twenty-two units of credit in particular subject areas are required to earn a high school diploma in New York State. Over time, different paths to graduation have been used to enable students to take advantage of unique learning opportunities and accommodate special circumstances. “Making up” course credit (often referred to as credit recovery) and “independent study” are two such examples. “Making up” course credit is intended to help students master learning outcomes after they have failed to complete a course. Independent study is intended to allow students to pursue a subject in greater depth.
As these pathways are more frequently used, it is important to provide clear, up-to-date guidance on what is permissible concerning the awarding of credit. It is also critical that there is sufficient rigor to ensure that all students will meet the competencies required for success in college and the workplace. The need is statewide. However, since New York City has the largest number of students, the Department began preliminary conversations with the New York City Department of Education and prepared the following draft proposal for Regents consideration and for additional feedback from the field.
The proposal specifies the circumstances and conditions under which students may earn credits through “make-up” opportunities if they fail or do not complete a course. The draft proposal requires that make-up opportunities must be approved by a school-based panel and ensure that the student will master the appropriate learning standards under the guidance of a certified teacher (previously there was no such requirement). The draft also specifies requirements regarding whether and how students may take “independent study” and receive credit. In general, the proposal limits independent study to three credits, at least two of which must be for electives, and a certified teacher must oversee the student’s work.
Current Regulations Governing the Awarding of Units of Credit
Part 100 of the Regulations contains specific provisions for awarding units of credit to students. Students can currently earn units of credit toward a high school diploma in the following ways:
- Students receive at least 180 minutes of instruction per week throughout the school year (i.e. 108 hours of instruction for a full year course), or the equivalent, and demonstrate their mastery of the learning outcomes in the course (8 NYCRR § 100.1 [a], [b]).
- Students may earn a maximum of 6 ½ units of credit by passing a state-developed or state-approved examination with a score of 85 percent or higher and passing an oral examination or completing a special project (8 NYCRR §§100.1[b] and 100.5[d]).
Most students earn credit through the first option after receiving instruction from certified teachers that is designed to ensure the achievement of the State’s learning standards.
The Regulations include additional options for earning units of credit in specific subjects or by specific groups of students:
- Transfer students may be awarded units of credit for work done outside the registered New York State high school in which he/she is enrolling. Principals and other relevant faculty must review a student’s records and award transfer credit if certain criteria are met (8 NYCRR § 100.5 [d] ).
- Students may obtain the unit of credit in visual arts and/or music, dance or theatre by participating in certain specified performance groups or advanced activities (8 NYCRR §100.5[d]).
- Public school grade eight students may be awarded credit for successful completion of high school courses and passing related examinations if certain conditions are satisfied. Grade eight acceleration for diploma credit is offered to students who demonstrate readiness as determined by the superintendent or his or her designee (8 NYCRR § 100.4 [d]).
In addition, summer school can provide opportunities for students to earn credit (8 NYCRR Part 110).
Possible Clarifications and/or Amendments to the Regulations
To Address “Make-Up” Course Credit and Independent Study
- Making Up Incomplete or Failed Course Credit
Sometimes students may come close to passing a course and may have deficiencies only in certain clearly defined areas of knowledge and skill. In those cases, it may not be necessary for the student to retake the entire course. Instead, the student might be permitted to make up those deficiencies, master the appropriate standards, and receive credit. Of course, this should only be allowed under carefully controlled conditions to ensure that the student does receive the opportunity to learn and does meet the required standards.
We propose that the Regulations be amended to specifically delineate what make-up opportunities are permitted for the purpose of earning course credit and under what circumstances they will be allowed.
We propose that the Regulations be amended to require that:
- School district officials can provide various programs for students who were previously enrolled in a course but failed to demonstrate mastery of the intended course outcomes.
- A school-based panel consisting of the principal, three teachers (not to include the student’s teacher in the course for which the student must make up credit), and one other administrator, must approve all programs for make-up credit. This panel concept already exists in regulation for appeals of Regents Exam grades.
- In order to provide the correct program to make up failed or incomplete course credit, the committee must consider each student’s needs and course completion deficiencies.
- The program must be aligned with the Regents learning standards.
- In order to receive credit, the student must receive equivalent, intensive instruction in the deficiency areas of the course by a teacher certified in the subject area.
- The student must also demonstrate mastery of the initial deficiency areas (for example, specific skills in math).
- If an end-of-course Regents examination is required for graduation, the student must also pass the Regents examination to fulfill the graduation requirements, and, to the extent determined by the school district, receive course credit.
The provisions above do not require specific seat time requirements for the make-up opportunity since the opportunity must be tailored to the individual student’s need. There is precedent for allowing a reduced amount of seat time in the context of summer school.
- Independent Study
At times students want to pursue a course of study in greater depth than is offered in the school’s curriculum. Students are required to complete 22 units of credit, but they typically complete more. Schools offer a number of elective courses, but may not offer certain courses that the student wants to pursue. Examples could include highly advanced math or botanical research. In those cases, it is important to provide guidance to ensure that a student is appropriately pursuing and mastering the subject matter.
We propose that the Regulations be amended to permit credit for independent study done at and outside of a student’s high school. We propose that the Regulations be amended to require:
Independent Study - A student may earn a maximum of 3 units of elective credit towards a Regents diploma through independent study. To award independent study credit, the following provisions must be met:
- The superintendent, or his or her designee, shall determine whether a student has demonstrated readiness in each subject in which he or she seeks to undertake independent study.
- Students are eligible for independent study only if they are on track for graduation (a) through the accumulation of the number of course credits expected for the student’s grade level and (b) by passing the appropriate number of Regents examinations for their grade level.
- Independent study may be used for elective courses and may not be used for courses required by the Regulations, except in the following circumstance. If a student needs to take one course required by regulation during the year prior to anticipated graduation, and if there is documented evidence that an unusual circumstance exists in which the course is not offered, then the student may take that course through independent study. This exception is limited to one unit of credit. The school-based panel referred to on page 3 must review and approve this exception.
- The principal, after consultation with relevant faculty, may award credit for work done through independent study and for work done at other educational and cultural institutions.
- The decision as to whether or not to award credit for work done shall be based on whether the record indicates that the work is:
- Academically rigorous and meets New York State commencement learning standards;
- Overseen by a teacher, certified in the subject area for which credit will be awarded;
- Based on a syllabus on file for each independent study course;
- Of comparable scope and quality to regular classroom work that would have been done in the school awarding the credit.
We recommend that the draft proposed policy on make-up and independent study course credit be released to the field for input and advice.
Timetable for Implementation
We will bring the comments received from the field back to the Regents for discussion. We will then revise the proposal as the Regents direct and prepare draft Regulations for consideration and discussion by the Regents.