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Meeting of the Board of Regents | March 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010 - 11:40pm

sed seal                                                                                                 




EMSC Committee


John B. King, Jr.


Draft Proposed Policy on Receiving Course Credit for Independent Study and General Part 100 Guidance to the Field


February 22, 2010






Issue for Discussion


  • Should the Regents establish a policy on receiving course credit for independent study?  Should the draft proposed policy be released to the field for input and advice?


Issues for Information


  • Regents action on Regulations that prescribe requirements for making up course credit is scheduled for April 2010, thereby allowing the regulations to take effect July, 2010.


  • Staff will begin assembling a guidance document to the field that will contain options for awarding credit that are available under current regulations as well as an FAQ section.  This document will be released on or about July 1.


  • Staff will provide guidance on and a system of review for the variance process as articulated in Commissioner’s regulations §100.2[n].  This guidance will be released on or about July 1.


Reason for Consideration


  • Review of Policy.
  • Information supporting additional options for earning course credit.
  • Prior request from the Regents to provide clarification to the field on the regulations relevant to the use of on-line courses for earning credit.



Proposed Handling

This item will be before the EMSC Committee for discussion in March 2010.


In order to maximize opportunities for student learning and the associated awarding of credit towards graduation, we are recommending a comprehensive set of four (4) actions by the Regents and by staff that include, but are not limited to, traditional learning, online learning, project-based learning and cultural education center learning opportunities.   Those actions are:

A.  Regents Actions:


  • Independent Study


  • Procedural History – this issue was last brought before the Board in April 2009 for consideration


  • Background Information - In April 2010, the Board is scheduled to act upon Regulations that will support make-up-credit options for school districts and students.  In an effort to offer additional opportunities for attaining initial course credit in a particular subject area in greater depth, additional Board action is recommended regarding independent study - occasions where students want to pursue a course of study in greater depth than is offered in the school’s curriculum. Currently, students are required to complete 22 units of credit in order to graduate from high school, 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:


  • A project for economics credit wherein a student works with a supervising teacher and the education staff at the Adirondack Museum to study documents and artifacts so as to produce a documentary or pod cast on the changing economics of the Adirondack Park over the past 100 years.
  • A project for art credit wherein a student works with the supervising teacher and the staff at the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute to study procurement and management issues so as to produce a paper or power point project detailing the skills and knowledge needed to be employed by such an institution.
  • A project for ELA credit wherein a student works with the supervising teacher to take an online class in advanced Shakespeare through a local community college which ends with a summative assessment and/or project as determined by the online content and the related state learning standards.



  • A project for science credit wherein a student works with the supervising teacher and the education staff at the American Museum of Natural History to participate in a series of workshops on biological evolution so as to produce a journal or e-journal on the experience and what was learned.


  • In these cases, it is important to provide guidance to insure that a student is appropriately pursuing and mastering the state learning standards in the subject area and to insure appropriate levels of rigor and quality for independent study programs implemented by local schools.  As detailed below, the Department’s proposed policy generally limits independent study to three elective credits that may be used to satisfy diploma requirements, and a certified teacher must oversee the student’s work.


    • Proposed Policy – Upon the Board’s conceptual approval of this policy on independent study, staff will begin to develop regulations that would permit credit to be awarded for independent study completed within or outside of a student’s high school. The following regulations would ensure appropriate levels of rigor and quality for independent study programs implemented by local schools:

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. A school-based panel of a principal, the supervising teacher of the proposed independent study, and the director of guidance or other administrator must review and approve this exception.


  • The principal, after consultation with relevant faculty, may award credit for work done through independent study


  • 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.


  • Recommendation - we recommend that the Board approve in concept the proposed policy on the awarding of course credit for independent study and direct staff to release the policy 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 with adoption scheduled for September or October 2010.


  • Regulations governing Make-Up Credit – as a reminder, at the December 2009 meeting, the Board reviewed a proposed new section 100.5(d)(8) of the Commissioner's Regulations relating to requirements for making up course credit.  Based on that review, these regulations will be submitted for final approval at the April 2010 Regents meeting with an effective date of May 12, 2010.  Schools could begin implementing this provision on July 1, 2010.


B.  Staff Actions:


  • Current Regulations governing the awarding of units of credit – in an effort to build an understanding of available options for the awarding of credit for high school students in New York State, staff will develop a Part 100 guidance document that will contain FAQ’s related to this topic.  For general information, 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]). This option allows credit to be awarded after receiving instruction from certified teachers that is designed to ensure the achievement of the State’s learning standards.


  • Certain students, approved by the superintendent, may earn a maximum of 6 ½ units of credit by passing a state-developed or state-approved examination with a score of 85 or higher and passing an oral examination or completing a special project (8 NYCRR §§100.1[b][2] and 100.5[d][1]).  This option is available for those students seeking to accelerate through a given class or classes, thereby allowing them to take additional classes or to possibly graduate prior to their cohort date.


  • 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] [5]).


  • Students may obtain the unit of credit in visual arts and/or music, dance or theatre by participating in certain specified performance groups or, in certain instances, out of school advanced activities (8 NYCRR §100.5[d][2]).


  • 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]). 


  • Under specific circumstances, students may earn credit via summer school (8 NYCRR Part 110).



  • Variances for Programs – School districts may request variances from the provisions of Part 100 of the Commissioner’s regulations as part of a proposed program designed to provide excellence in education. The district can apply for a variance under Commissioners Regulations 100.2[n].  Under this regulation, the application must  set forth:
  1. the specific regulation(s) from which a variance is requested;
  2. the need for such variance;
  3. a detailed description of the program or activities which will be substituted for the requirement for which the variance is requested;
  4. the expected time needed to carry out the substitute program or activities;
  5. a plan for evaluating the substitute program or activities;
  6. the school or school district's agreement to submit a follow-up report to the commissioner within six months after conclusion of the substitute program or activities, and within one month after the end of each school year in the case of ongoing substitute programs or activities; and
  7. in lieu of the requirements set forth in (b) through (f) above, a statement and supporting evidence concerning the school's status of accreditation by a statewide or regional accrediting body recognized by the Commissioner may be submitted.


Staff will develop a system for review of submitted variances as well as guidance related thereto.


Summary - Taken collectively, these actions will provide a student the opportunity to attain a significant number of credits through non-traditional means, will increase opportunities for student learning in general, will allow greater flexibility for local schools, and will provide needed guidance to existing practices in the field.