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    FAQ for Changes to Policy and Procedure 2024: Out-of-District Credits and Credit Recovery

    Introduction

    Thank you for your interest in recently approved changes to Board Policy/Procedure 2024, Out-of-District Credits and Credit Recovery. All changes go into effect July 1 2019. The intent of the changes is to offer students a variety of options for earning credits that they need to graduate, while also ensuring that the options are rigorous.

    It is important to note that Board Policy and Superintendent Procedure 2024 only address courses that students want to add to their Seattle Public Schools high school transcripts and apply towards graduation requirements.

    Students are always free to take out-of-district courses without going through the approval process outlined in Superintendent Procedure 2024, and submit transcripts for those courses separately to the colleges where they may be applying. Please see below for answers to many questions that you may have about the changes.

    Timeline

    • April 23, 2019: C&I Policy Committee reviewed the revised Board Action Report for this policy change and recommended that it be moved forward with a recommendation for approval by the full Board.
    • May 1, 2019: Board Action Report introduction to full Board
    • May 15, 2019: Board Action Report voted on and approved  by full Board
    • July 1, 2019: Approved changes to policy and procedure go into effect

    Background

    Superintendent Procedure 2024SP, Online Learning, outlines the manner in which Seattle Public Schools allows students to take courses for high school credit via online learning opportunities. 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 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 drafted a revised procedure.  The Department of College and Career Readiness then vetted that revised procedure with all high school principals, academic intervention specialists, counselors, the Department of Race and Equity, senior level staff, and board members.  After finalizing the revised procedure, College and Career Readiness staff also revised the corresponding policy, with input from board members.

    Questions and Answers

    Q: Why has Superintendent Procedure 2024 been significantly reorganized and reformatted?

    A: Superintendent Procedure 2024 has been divided into two sections, one for out-of-district credits for first time credit, and one for credit recovery for previously failed courses.  This makes the procedure clearer and easier to understand for students, families, and school staff.  The rules governing out-of-district courses for first time credits are very different from the rules governing credit recovery, and we want to make sure that there is no confusion about which rules apply to which credits.

    Q: Why can’t students who take out-of-district courses for first time credit have letter grades for those courses added to their transcripts?

    A: Out-of-district courses for first time credit will only be added to Seattle Public Schools transcripts with pass/no pass credit rather than letter grades.  This ensures that student GPAs are not pulled up or down by out-of-district coursework, and makes GPA calculations more equitable for all students. Note that if students earn high grades on these courses and want colleges where they are applying to know, they are always free to submit those grades separately.

    Q: How will principals decide which out-of-district course requests to approve?

    A: A decision tree has been created for out-of-district course approval.  Principals will use this decision tree when determining whether or not to approve out-of-district courses for addition to SPS transcripts.  Per the decision tree, principals will approve requests for courses with approved providers if students need the courses to graduate and cannot take the courses at their high school.  Special consideration will be made for requests that do not meet that criteria if students need the out-of-district courses in order to access college preparatory courses during their junior or senior year.  This decision tree ensures equity across the district for students who attend different schools.  As a reminder, students are always free to take any courses with any providers, but they need approval to have credit for those courses added to their SPS transcripts.

    Q: What appeals or exceptions are available?
    A: The following exceptions/appeals are available:

    1. Students are limited to 4 online credits (8 courses) for first time credit. However, students facing extenuating circumstances may receive permission to take additional classes online.
    2. Students are expected to take out-of-district courses with approved colleges or high schools within Washington State, or with online provides approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).  However, students may appeal to take a course with a different provider if a particular course is not available in state or with an OSPI approved provider.
    3. Students are expected to take courses at their high schools if the courses are available.  However, students in the classes of 2020-2023 may appeal to take available courses out-of-district if they have already planned high school courses of study that do not leave room for the courses in question.
    4. Again, students are expected to take courses at their high schools if the courses are available, but students facing extenuating circumstances that necessitate them missing one or more periods of the school day throughout a marking period may appeal to take out-of-district classes.
    5. Exceptions may apply for students with individual education plans (IEPs) or 504 plans.  Please see questions 17 and 21 below for more information.

    Q: Why can’t middle school students take out-of-district courses for addition to their future high school transcripts?

    A: Out-of-district courses will not be approved for middle school students.  Principals in particular asked for this change because often, when middle school students take out-of-district courses, they are not adequately prepared academically for the courses they take in high school.  This negatively impacts the learning experience of that student and other students in the classroom. In addition, it should be noted that there are other ways for students to earn high school credits while in middle school through their school’s offerings.  Note that students will be permitted to take out-of-district courses with district approved programs like LEEP the summer before 9grade.

    Q: Why are you changing the number of online courses that a student may take for high school credit?

    A: Under the current Superintendent’s Procedure, students are allowed to take up to 8 online credits, including first time credit and credit recovery.  Under the revised procedure, this is increased to 4 online credits for first time courses and 8 online credits for credit recovery.   The purpose of these changes is to provide maximum flexibility to students who need to recover credits for courses that they previously attempted at their high schools, and to provide sufficient opportunities for students who need to take online courses for first time credit.  Note that most courses are 0.5 credits, so students could take up to 8 online courses for first time credit, one every semester.  We consider this a to be a fair number of credits, more than 15% of all required credits.  Also note that this limit applies to online courses only.  We are not specifically limiting the number of out-of-district in person courses that a student may take at colleges like University of Washington.  However, all requests for out-of-district courses are subject to approval via the decision tree.

    Q: In the context of the new 24 credit graduation requirement, why are you limiting the use of out-of-district credits?

    A: Students will be allowed to take out-of-district courses if the courses that they need to meet the 24 credit graduation requirement are not available at their high schools.  No student will be prevented from graduating on time because they are not allowed to take out-of-district courses. 

    Q: How are you preparing students to meet the 24 credit graduation requirement?  How are you supporting struggling students?

    A: All high schools received funding this year to help students stay on track to earn 6 credits per year, and to recover credits if they do fail courses.  Schools are receiving this funding for the 2019-20 school year as well. One way to recover credits is to take online credit recovery classes, but students also have access to summer school, and may repeat classes during the school year if necessary.  Schools are taking a number of different approaches to supporting their struggling students, everything from hiring more academic intervention specialists and counselors to bringing in community based organizations to provide tutoring services.  Additionally, schools received funding to provide their teachers with professional development, and the district will continue to fund professional development for 2019-20.  The professional development is intended to help teachers improve rigor and engagement in the classroom, so that more students can meet the 24 credit graduation requirement without having to take credit recovery coursework.

    Q: Why can’t students take out-of-district courses at any accredited college or university and have credit from those coursed added to their SPS transcripts?

    A: We are legally bound by Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-410-310, Equivalency course of study- Credit for correspondence courses, electronically mediated courses, and college courses. This WAC stipulates that school districts can only offer high school credits for college courses taken with the following:

    1. Schools that are members of the National University Continuing Education Association or accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council;
    2. Community colleges, technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and approved private schools in Washington state; and
    3. Other schools or institutions, including electronically mediated schools or programs, which are approved, after evaluation of a particular course offering, by the school district.

    However, this WAC has not been updated in many years, and neither the National University Continuing Education Association nor the Distance Education and Training Council are still operating. As Seattle Public Schools cannot vet the coursework at every educational institution where a student might want to take a course, per item 3 above, the district must rely on the state government’s accreditation and approval processes for in-state schools, and only accept credits from those institutions. However, explained in a question above, there will be an appeals process for students who want to take a particular class that is not offered in-state or with an OSPI approved online provider.

    Q: Where can students take out-of-district credits, aside from colleges in Washington State?

    A: Students can also take courses with OSPI approved online providers, private schools in Washington, and public high schools and online schools in Washington school districts.

    Q: What equity analysis has been done on these proposed changes?

    A: College and Career Readiness (CCR) staff met with staff from the Department of Racial Equity and Advancement to share proposed changes and ask for support with analyzing those changes using the district’s Racial Equity Analysis tool. Following that meeting, CCR staff completed the racial equity analysis.  The analysis confirmed that the High School Policy Work Group approached the revisions with an equity lens, and recommended revisions that would lead to more equitable outcomes for students.  Please see below for details of the equity analysis.

    Step 1 of SPS’s Racial Equity Tool asks department leadership to define equitable outcomes and engage stakeholders.  In the context of this work, equitable outcomes means every student in every high school having the same opportunity to take out-of-district courses.  Through the process of engaging stakeholders, particularly principals, district staff learned that at some schools, permission to take out-of-district courses is widely granted, and at other schools, it is not.  Student of color are concentrated in certain high schools, so that means that without a district-wide policy and procedure on when to approve out-of-district credits, there will be racial disparities.  These revisions provide that district-wide policy and procedure, and thus will increase racially equitable outcomes.

    Furthermore, under the current procedure, when a student takes an out-of-district course, the letter grade the student receives counts towards his or her GPA.  The student can “shop around” for a course that is known to be easy, instead of taking the course through SPS. This is inequitable, because students who are at high schools where principals do not approve out-of-district credits, and students who cannot afford to pay for out-of-district courses, do not have this option for boosting their GPAs. In the revised procedure, out-of-district courses will not be used for GPA calculations, and this is more equitable.

    Step 2 of the Racial Equity Tool asks stakeholders to engage in analyzing data.  As part of this process, CCR staff collected and analyzed data on online course-taking for credit recovery and out-of-district credit.  We will continue to track the data after the proposed changes go into effect, to ensure that the changes have the intended effect of giving students equitable access to out-of-district courses.  We will also work with the Department of Technology Services to refine data collection processes so that we can do a more fine-tuned analysis going forward.

    Step 3 of the Racial Equity Tool asks stakeholders to analyze how the proposed changes will increase or decrease educational and racial equity.  CCR staff strongly believe that our proposed changes will increase educational and racial equity for the reasons described in Step 1 above.  However, we acknowledge that out-of-district credits are not free, and that even if the procedure is implemented with fidelity and all students receive permission to take out-of-district courses in a uniform way, some students have families who can pay for these courses, and other do not.  For that reason, we will continue to advocate for increased funding to high schools, so that every student can take a rigorous and robust selection of courses for free at their own public high schools.

    Step 4 of the Racial Equity Tool asks stakeholders to identify ongoing measures of success or mitigation plans for negative impacts.  As mentioned in Step 2 above, we plan to continue to monitor data on students accessing out-of-district credits and credit recovery.  If we find large disparities across schools, we will work with principals to ensure that they understand how to apply the new procedure.  We will also revisit our appeals process if we find that students from particular socio-economic groups are more likely to appeal, and are thus using more district resources in the form of staff time to review the appeals.

    Q: Who pays for out-of-district courses for first time credit?

    A: Families are expected to pay for out-of-district courses for first time credit.  Seattle Public Schools is not responsible for costs or fees.  In special circumstances, a school may pay for costs and fees if funding is available, pending approval by the Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction.  This is not a change from the previous policy/procedure.

    Q: Who pays for credit recovery courses, including online credit recovery courses.

    A: Courses offered to students for which the district claims state education funding or that are included as part of the legally required annual minimum instructional hour offering will be paid for by the district.  These are courses that are considered part of a school’s master schedule or are otherwise courses offered by the district or by the individual school.  Students/families may be responsible for fees as specified by School Board Policy 3520, Board Procedure 3520BP, and Superintendent Procedure 3520SP.  Courses offered to students for which the district claims no state education funding and that are not included as part of the legally required annual minimum instructional hour offering will be paid for by the students/families, including any course fees.  Generally, schools contract with an OSPI approved online course provider for online credit recovery courses for their students, and the school pays for those courses.  This is not a change from the previous policy/procedure.  The district pays for credit recovery through summer school.

    Q: Will there be any fiscal impact on Seattle Public Schools as a result of these changes?

    A: The changes to Board Policy/Superintendent Procedure 2024 will not cost Seattle Public Schools any additional money.  As noted above, Seattle Public Schools already pays for most credit recovery options, via online credit recovery or summer school, and will continue to do so as funding allows.  That said, Seattle Public Schools is interested in reviewing courses offered by OSPI approved online providers, and there would be significant costs associated with that work.  Available budget and staff capacity will determine the scope and feasibility of reviewing courses.  Additionally, Seattle Public Schools has been providing funding for students to take world language assessments in order to earn world language credits, and will continue to do so as funding allows.  Please see the question below on world languages for more information about taking out-of-district world language courses and/or the world language assessments.

    Q: How will this impact my student who attends an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) school?

    A: Every student enrolled in an ALE school has an individualized learning plan designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs.  If the plan calls for the student to take particular out-of-district courses and/or credit recovery courses, the student will be permitted to do so.

    Q: How will this impact my student who has an Individual Education Plan?

    A: We have consulted with the Special Education Department regarding these revisions, and staff have confirmed that there will not be a negative impact on students receiving special education services.  Students with individual education plans only take online classes for first time credit under rare circumstances (best practice is generally to provide students with in-person highly qualified instructors who can offer real time support and feedback), and they will not be blocked from doing so under this revised procedure.  Special education students are general education students first, and all students will be able to access out-of-district credits for first time credit if they are unable to take the courses they need at their schools.  In addition if taking a particular class out-of-district is part of a student’s IEP, the student will be permitted to take the class for a letter grade. To summarize, the needs of special education students have been considered throughout this process, and special education students will not be blocked from taking the out-of-district courses that meet their needs.

    Q: How will this impact students who want to take world language courses not offered by Seattle Public Schools high schools?

    1. If the language they want to take is available with an approved provider, they can request approval from their principal to take the courses and have the credit added to their high school transcripts.  They can also appeal to take the course with a non-approved provider if the course is not available with an approved provider.
    2. If they prefer, students may earn competency credit. Seattle Public Schools provides for students to earn competency-based high school credits for world languages by taking an assessment and demonstrating proficiency in their language of choice.  Students can earn up to 4 credits by demonstrating proficiency at the “Intermediate High” level, and can earn the 2 credits required for graduation by demonstrating proficiency at the “Novice High” level.  For more information, please refer to Superintendent Procedure 2409SP, Competency/Proficiency High School Credit for World Languages. 

    Q: How will changes to this procedure impact Running Start students?

    A: Dual credit programs like Running Start and College in the High School will not be impacted in any way. These programs are considered in-district, and the rules in the Superintendent Procedure 2024 do not apply.

    Q: My child already has permission to take an out-of-district class this summer or next fall, or is planning to get permission before the last day of school.  What happens now?

    A: Changes do not go into effect until July 1, 2019.  If your child receives permission prior to July 1 to take an out-of-district class, that permission will be honored.  Your child will be able to take the class and have it added to the high school transcript as a letter grade.  Any requests made starting July 1 are subject to the rules and decision-making process outlined in the revised procedure.

    Q: How will this impact my student who has a 504 Plan?

    A: Based on consultation with the 504/ADA Department, Superintendent Procedure 2024 will work in conjunction with a student’s 504 Plan, with the provisions (i.e. modifications and/or accommodations) detailed in the 504 Plan being reviewed first when determining whether credit and a grade will be granted for out-of-district courses. Note that a request for out-of-district credit/grade to be included in a student’s 504 Plan must be discussed as a part of the 504 Team process. Through this process, families and school staff will work together to create or update a student’s 504 Plan as appropriate for the student and the school setting. Out-of-district courses that are added to a 504 Plan must be approved in advance through the 504 Team based at the student’s school.  Students will be eligible to earn letter grades for these courses.

    If a student wants to earn credit for an out-of-district course that is not detailed as a modification or accommodation in the 504 Plan, the student must request permission via the Equivalency of Study for First Time Credit Form.  If the request is approved, the student will earn credit for the course, but not a letter grade. Please contact your school’s 504 building coordinator if you have any questions.

    Q: How do other nearby districts address out-of-district credits for first time credit?

    A:  Like Seattle Public Schools, other districts have policies and procedures for students wishing to take out of district credits for first time credit, and require students to get prior approval for any out-of-district courses they want added to their high school transcripts.

    District

    Who Approves?

    Do students receive letter grades?

    Limits

    Approval Criteria

    Seattle Public Schools (under proposed changes)

    • School principal approves requests
    • Department of College and Career Readiness reviews appeals

    No, students receive credit only, no letter grade

    • Up to 4 out-of-district credits may be taken online (exceptions apply)
    • No limit on in-person courses
    • Generally, student may take course only if it counts towards graduation and cannot be taken at high school (course not offered or course is full)
    • Exceptions apply

    Bellevue School District

    • Counselor
    • Principal
    • Director of Curriculum and Instruction
    • Executive Director of Student Services

    No, students will receive credit only, no letter grade

    N/A

    • Student must be scheduled in a minimum of 6 credits if they are juniors or seniors, and fully scheduled for 7 credits if they are freshmen or sophomores
    • Student must provide reason for district to approve request

    Lake Washington School District

    Principal or designee

    Students receive letter grades

    Up to 3 credits may be taken through high schools in other districts (exceptions apply)

     

     

    • Student must complete extensive form explaining objectives of class, length of time to be spent in class, outline of classwork, instructional materials, and reason class cannot be taken at students’ high school

    Mercer Island School District

    • Principal
    • Office of Superintendent reviews appeals

    No, students will receive credit only, no letter grade

    N/A

    • Student must submit a course syllabus, including list of textbooks to be used