Important new information about credit for non-MMSD courses issue.

“In preparation for the December 11, 2006 meeting of the BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee, Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash prepared a memo dated December 5, 2006 along with 10 “exhibit” appendices for distribution to the BOE. “Exhibit 10” is a copy of the “Guidelines for Taking Coursework Outside the District” that she wrote in October, 2006, and I previously posted on SIS. In her memo she states “All the other nine procedures described herein, except this one, are governed by law or Board Policy. This process (her new Guidelines) was created by the MMSD to expand the opportunities for students to take courses outside the MMSD without increasing the costs to the MMSD and without undermining the integrity of the diploma a student receives from the MMSD. The “Guidelines for Taking Coursework Outside the MMSD” is the process and procedure currently used when, for example, a student who wants to take outside courses, but does not have any other option available to him/her. The cost for taking courses under this procedure is the responsibility of the student/parents. The procedure requires pre-approval by the principal and if the student wants credit for taking the course, he/she will receive elective credit if the District does not offer a comparable course. If the District offers a comparable course, the student will not receive credit. The student’s transcript will only include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, the credit, if any, and the pass/fail grade.”
As I had stated previously on SIS I believe this is a new policy. It is definitely different from the one used in the recent past at Madison West HS in several crucial respects. It has never previously been brought before the BOE for formal approval. At the November 13, 2006 meeting of the Performance and Achievement Committee, I presented Superintendent Rainwater and members of the BOE with a copy of these “Guidelines”. Superintendent Rainwater responded by stating that these Guidelines only apply to “Independent Study” and do not represent a change in policy. I interpreted his comments to mean they are simply a restatement of Board Policy 3545 – Independent Study. However, Nash’s December 5th memo to the BOE quoted above seems to indicate that her “Guidelines” are to be interpreted as a catchall, meant to apply not just to independent study, but to ALL course work not specifically governed by State law or existing MMSD Board Policies, i.e., her exhibits 1-9. In other words, it is to apply as well to UW courses taken outside of the YOP, WCATY courses, online courses such as Stanford’s EPGY taken outside of the InSTEP Program, UW-Extension courses where the District claims to offer a comparable course (even though in a very different format), etc., i.e., a variety of different types of formal course work offered through certified, non-MMSD programs. If so, shouldn’t these “Guidelines” need formal BOE approval as a new Board Policy since, as Nash states in her memo, they are not currently covered under any existing Board Policies?

Nash’s “Guidelines” state that no credit will be permitted for non-MMSD courses whenever THEY deem they offer a comparable course (i.e., regardless of format) ANYWHERE in the MMSD. Even when the MMSD doesn’t offer a comparable course, they will permit a maximum of TWO ELECTIVE credits, i.e., they can not be used to fulfill specific requirements for graduation. Thus, if these Guidelines are allowed to stand, no credit whatsoever will be permitted for any high school or college course the district offers that a student takes, instead, via WCATY, EPGY, UW-Extension, online, correspondence, etc., regardless of the student’s ability to access the District’s comparable course.
I believe these new “Guidelines” will be harmful to a wide variety of alternative learners. They shut off the one safety value students currently have whose needs are not being adequately met by their own middle and high schools. Without it, more families will leave the MMSD for alternative schooling options if they can afford to do so and more students who stay will fail to graduate. If you agree with me, please express your concern by either (i) attending Monday’s BOE meeting at 5:45 pm in the Doyle Administration Building, or (ii) writing a letter or email to all BOE members, Pam Nash, and Art Rainwater.”

11 thoughts on “Important new information about credit for non-MMSD courses issue.”

  1. Does anyone know how many MMSD students actually take courses, outside of the district, for credit?

  2. Data compiled by Steve Hartley in preparation for the November 13th meeting indicated ~ 40-50 students per year during the past couple of years were receiving credit for non-MMSD courses they were taking at UW, MATC, or UW-Extension under Board-approved programs.
    When this topic had come before the Board 5 years ago the number the District reported was ~ 100 students per year. The decrease may be due to a combination of undercounting and confusion concerning District policy since a similar policy disallowing credit for non-MMSD courses was BOE approved and then withdrawn for reconsideration 5 years ago following an outcry from dozens of parents.
    These numbers are, undoubtedly, lower estimates as to the number of students who might be affected by this new policy since the District doesn’t have a mechanism to accurately tract (i) students who are taking non-MMSD courses at their own expense without receiving credit (because they didn’t bother with the paperwork to request it or their request for credit was rejected) and (ii) students who desired to take non-MMSD courses, but became discouraged from doing so when told they would not be able to receive credit for them.

  3. Ideally, the MMSD could become a facilitator for helping students find and enroll in courses in any area school — UW, MATC, on-line, or wherever. The MMSD could turn the entire city into one large school for its students.
    With this approach, the MMSD could fulfill the superintendent’s rhetoric: “We’re going to teach students, not courses.”

  4. Just curious — should MMSD taxpayers pay for courses taken by a high-school-age student at, say, Abundant Life High School if certain courses there aren’t offered at East High?

  5. Interesting question, Phil. For example, there might be a Comparative Religions course offered by a parochial school in the Madison area that is not offered anywhere in the MMSD. The District’s lawyers might need to rule whether such a course would qualify under the Youth Options Program. The question I am raising is whether students should be permitted to receive credit toward fulfillment of graduation requirements for non-MMSD courses when they or their families pay the tuition.

  6. Here’s what the DPI says about its Youth Options Program, which appears to apply to post-secondary courses – – and below:
    Wisconsin’s Youth Options Programs
    Wisconsin’s youth options program allows public high school juniors and seniors who meet certain requirements to take postsecondary courses at a UW institution, a Wisconsin technical college, one of the state’s participating private nonprofit institutions of higher education, or tribally-controlled colleges. Approved courses count toward high school graduation and college credit.
    The program opens the door to greater learning opportunities for motivated students considering a technical career, wishing to begin college early, or prepaing themselves to enter the workforce immediately after high school graduation.
    Under youth options, a student does not pay for a college course if the school board determines the course qualifies for high school credit and is not comparable to a course already offered in the school district. If approved by the school board, the student can receive both high school and college credit upon successful completion of the course. A student who successfully completes their high school graduation requirements earns a high school diploma regardless of whether the requirements were met while attending a high school or college.
    Contact: Beth Lewis, Phone: 608/267-1062; FAX: 608/267-9275

  7. Thanks Barb for digging up DPI’s info on the YOP. The question then is whether a student could take a course such as Comparative Religions for credit at Edgewood College at District expense under the YOP or Edgewood HS at their own expense if the MMSD does not offer a comparable course.

  8. Janet, yes, one can take courses at Edgewood College, as stated in Barb’s info, it is a participating private institution. I don’t think Edgewood High School would have someone from say West take AP European History. The reason I say this is that they enrollment is basically full with their own students. They do allow kids from private middle schools take courses at the high school at the families expense. I would guess if their enrollment was down, they would allow someone from another high school (or homeschoolers) take a course or two at their expense.

  9. Janet:
    Re. Youth Options — my comments were more directed at Ed’s, who used the terms “facilitator” and “or wherever.”
    Having been around government a while, I’ve sometimes found that the term “facilitator” is interchangeable with the term “payer.” And wherever seems to mean anywhere.
    As I’ve expressed in previous posts, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the MMSD School Board to have some kind of limitations on the extent — and at what institutions — it will pay for non-MMSD coursework taken by currently enrolled MMSD students. Because there are more than a few savvy parents who view Youth Options as a great deal for them personally — they get their children through high school and have part of their college education paid for at the same time. And dollars are finite — money spent on paying for tuition for students to take Youth Options courses is money that cannot be spent on, to cite one example, a rigorous and broad AP program at all MMSD high schools. I know your focus is more on privately paid-for coursework, but Ed’s take seemed much broader, and raised some significant public policy issues.

  10. I agree that my comment raised policy questions, and I probably don’t have a definitive solution.
    I’d have no problem giving credit for courses when parents cover the cost.
    Here’s a thought. Ask the MMSD to pay for courses for students who qualify for free or reduced hot lunch, or maybe the Madison schools foundation could pay.

  11. A school district is required to have a Youth Options program, but this is primarily for children entering 10th and 11th grade. Other children and learning options raised by parents before the School Board last night are not addressed by the Youth Options Program. Bottom Line: It’s the School Board’s responsibility to set up for the policy for the Youth Options Program and other educational policies dealing with related issues. I hope the School Board consolidates, clarifies and simplifies current policies to address the Youth Options Program but also other learning needs. Based upon the comments and discussion at last night’s School Board meeting, such steps are needed and will be taken, if I followed what took place. Good progress.
    FYI – the following came from the Youth Options Program Brochure –
    The school board shall determine whether a postsecondary course is eligible for high school credit, how much high school credit may be awarded, and whether the course is comparable to a course offered at the school district.
    It seems to me that the responsibilities for overseeing and approving development of a policy(ies) for determing whether a course receives credit and the procedures for such policy rest with the School Board.

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