In a world filled with testing, it sometimes seems our children have no room to breathe in their educational process. Yet for high schoolers, legislators have also provided an option that is diametrically opposed to the rigidity created by a full testing schedule.
Several years ago, the state of Ohio passed a law that recognizes students learn more ways than just by sitting in class. This new law, referred to as “Credit Flex,” says a student may earn credit through study at other approved institutions; through online courses or “demonstrating mastery” (by passing an examination, providing a portfolio of work, or making a presentation to a panel); or through an independent study or “new course” not currently offered at the school.
The independent study/”new course” option is very appealing to those who want to branch out from the traditional options and guide their own learning. However, it is by no means a “cake” option (at least that’s what we used to call easy classes – not sure if that’s still the term!); students must present a well-developed plan that will demonstrate significant learning, and then manage their own time as they complete the class. While they have a teacher who agrees to be their teacher-of-record and evaluate their end result, the work is done on their own.
In our household, we will be experiencing the independent study option next year, as my daughter, Natalie, who will be a senior, has had two classes approved through Credit Flex. The first is based on a blog she started last December; she will be writing various types of articles, including fiction, poetry and introspective pieces, encouraging interaction with readers, and learning about the world of online writing. She will also be writing for the Milford HS English Department’s blog.
The second is helping her explore a possible career path in teaching: she will be working with 8-10 music teachers, in Milford and at least one other school district, to learn about different teaching styles, working with children of various ages, and researching teaching techniques. She will not only learn a lot about music and education, but she’ll have some good data about her own skills and preferences as she goes off to college and must decide what career to pursue.
Options like these are great ways to incorporate 21st century skills into our students’ education. Natalie has already learned a lot by thinking through what would constitute a robust curriculum to qualify as “credit” from the high school; she had to fill out the application, which taught her many skills in itself; and now she will have to guide herself through the two courses, teaching her time management and responsibility over and above the academic skills she’ll be learning and refining.
Every student learns differently, and having flexible options like this helps keep students engaged and prepare them for their own unique life goals. It’s more work on the school’s part – first for the committee determining if the proposal meets requirements, and then for the teacher who takes on the student – but it is encouraging that this option exists.
If your child is interested in the Credit Flex option, proposals are accepted once a year, in the spring. Here is a link to this year’s program application for reference.
Note: a very special “thank you!” to teachers Allison Wilson and Brian Brown for taking on Natalie’s Credit Flex classes!