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Policy would let students earn high school credit

March 13, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Middle school students who take algebra, geometry or foreign language soon could receive high school credit for their work.

The Washington County Board of Education is considering a policy that would give students in selected classes high school credit while they are in middle school. A special meeting about the policy, which passed on first reading last week, and the new Maryland High School Assessment requirements will be Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Office on Commonwealth Avenue.

"What we're trying to do is acknowledge their having taken those courses ..." Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education, said of the proposed policy change.

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According to Michael, 547 seventh- and eighth-graders take some level of Spanish and 240 middle schoolers are enrolled in French.

He said 363 eighth-graders and 147 seventh-graders are taking algebra this year, while 71 eighth-graders are taking geometry.

School board vice president Jacqueline Fischer and school officials expressed mixed emotions about the possibility of granting students in those courses high school credit.

"I think one of the reasons we called the town meeting is most of us right now are feeling ambivalent," Fischer said Wednesday during a telephone interview. "I see pluses on one side and minuses on the other."

Board members said they look forward to gaining input about the policy.

"To me, if a kid or a student is capable of doing that sort of work and that rigor of work, then they should certainly be able to do it," board member Edward Forrest said by phone Thursday. Forrest, whose middle school-aged son takes algebra, said he is "leaning against" the policy because the classes represent grade-level-appropriate work for some students.

Board member Wayne Ridenour said he is concerned that students who take two years of language in middle school would, in some cases, be eligible to matriculate to Advanced Placement courses while still freshmen.

"I don't think that's healthy, and I don't think they're ready for that," Ridenour said.

The proposed policy stipulates that middle schoolers taking algebra or geometry could get high school credit if they passed the state exams and took four additional math courses while in high school.

Students taking French or Spanish could receive high school credit if their middle school courses were taught at a high school level and they were successful in at least two additional foreign language courses while in high school.

Michael said he predicts interest in offering more difficult classes at lower levels will grow.

He said nearly 100 percent of students in a smaller group - 385 eighth-graders and 80 seventh-graders - enrolled in algebra last year passed the Maryland High School Assessment.

"If history repeats itself, as time goes on, we'll be seeing more math classes being pushed down to middle school, I would suspect," Michael said.

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