Originally Sent: 10/1/2015
October 1, 2015
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Three Proven Methods to Evaluate High School Credits
Most of you now have one month of school under your belt, and hopefully you still have a skip in your step! If you are already beginning to drag, we encourage you to gain a new perspective. Remember that your homeschool will not be perfect. You will be not perfect, and your children will not be perfect. There, don’t you feel better already? Once you overcome the natural tendency to want all things done with perfection, you can concentrate on more reasonable and healthy expectations of your teens and yourself.
One such expectation is that you come up with a four-year high school plan and then document these courses on a transcript. As you begin each high school year, decide how you will grade each course and gather the information needed to write course descriptions. The high school transcript also documents the credit earned upon course completion; unfortunately, many parents struggle with how to determine high school credits.
Defining a High School Credit
The credit assigned to a course takes into account the content, instruction time, and time spent completing course work. For parent-taught courses, the parent determines credit. If your teen takes an outside course from another instructor, typically the instructor assigns credit. Most online instructors determine credit awarded, and you should request this information from the instructor prior to the start of the course.
For courses taken in a co-op setting, the person who determines credit given is not as clear cut because co-op class structures come in many forms. Some co-op teachers assign credit, assess students’ work, and determine the final grades. Other co-op teachers may leave some or all of these responsibilities to the parent. As the supervisor of your teen’s high school courses, you should establish who shoulders the responsibility to assign credit to your teen’s co-op courses, evaluates work, and calculates the final grade. If the co-op teacher does not assign credit, then the parent assumes responsibility for this task.
Using the Textbook Approach
If you use a high school textbook written by a reputable publisher as the basis for your course, then the publisher determines the high school credit. For example, many homeschool parents purchase an algebra or biology book from a publisher as the main resource for teaching these subjects. The publisher takes into account the content of the course (scope and sequence) and the amount of time necessary (on average) to complete the assignments in order to determine credit. A textbook designed to be completed in one school year is given one credit, while a textbook meant to be completed in one semester is given one-half credit. Although this is the system used in most states, there are notable exceptions. A homeschool parent in one of the following states can either follow the public school’s lead to determine credits or use the system employed in most of the other states. Choose a credit system and then be consistent during the four years of high school.
Students do not need to complete every question, problem, or assignment within a textbook to earn the course credit, but please do not shortchange your student either. Diligently cover all the content of the textbook but use judgment to not waste effort. This is especially important for courses that are the building blocks for follow-on courses such as Algebra I and II or Spanish I and II. Many textbooks include extra problems, questions, or assignments to help teens who might be struggling with various concepts. Like any good general, go over easy territory quickly and more challenging territory with deliberation. We recommend that students complete at least 75-80% of the assignments in the textbook to earn the one-year credit.
Logging Hours to Determine Credit
Some parents choose to log hours because they are not utilizing a standard textbook as the course’s main resource. Sometimes parents generate their own course materials or pull together materials from a variety of sources. This is particularly true for many electives such as performing arts (musical instruments, dance, drama), visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, pottery, photography) , industrial arts (woodworking, automotive repair, construction, welding), home economics (baking, cooking, sewing, tailoring, fashion design), and general arts (music appreciation, music history, music theory, art appreciation, art history).
In this case, log hours to determine credit. For a core course (English, science, history, math, or foreign language), log at least 150 hours for a one credit course (roughly five hours a week). Logging more than 150 hours does not earn the student more credit, it simply indicates that the threshold of 150 hours has been surpassed. For honors courses and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students will log far more than the minimum number of hours. Generally, honors courses expect 8-10 hours per week, and AP courses require 10-15 hours per week. Even though honors and AP courses demand more hours than a standard high school course, they do not earn more credit when students spend more than 150 hours completing course work.
For a lab science course, log a minimum of 180 hours; the additional 30 hours are for required lab work. For an elective course (such as physical education, art, music, or other course that lies outside of the core courses), log 120 hours for a one credit course or 60 hours for a one-half credit course. (Again, remember to account for differences in this credit system if you live in California, New Jersey, Idaho, or Indiana if you plan to follow the public school’s credit system in those states). As a general rule, teens who work 2 – 2.5 hours each week on an elective will accumulate the minimum 60 hours for a semester course (one-half credit) over 36 – 40 weeks.
Some integrated curricula pull from many different resources such as real books, websites, articles, and primary source documents. For this type of curriculum, logging hours is a good method to determine the actual high school credit earned in each subject discipline.
Converting College Credit to High School Credit
When teens take a college-level course while still in high school, they can simultaneously earn both college and high school credit. Most states call this dual enrollment. If your teen completes a 3–5 credit college course in one semester, usually this converts to a one-credit high school course when shown on the high school transcript. For example, if your teen completes a three-credit freshman English course at the community college, list this course on the high school transcript using the title given by the college, footnote the course, and note at the bottom where the course was taken. Indicate on the transcript that the course earned one high school credit.
Recently, we’ve learned of a few exceptions to this college-to-high-school-credit conversion factor. As the administrator of your homeschool, you are free to determine how to convert college course credit into high school credit. Most of the high schools around the country typically use the conversion outlined above, and we continue to recommend this college-to-high-school-credit conversion factor.
Each of your teens has different academic abilities and future goals. Your plan and the number of credits your teen completes during high school reflects those aptitudes and aspirations. However, please keep in mind some general guidelines. For teens headed directly into the workforce, trade school, or military enlistment following high school graduation, they typically earn an average of 20 – 22 total credits (California: 200 – 220, New Jersey: 100 – 110, and Idaho and Indiana: 40 – 44). For college-bound students, the number of credits typically earned increases to 24 – 28 total credits (California: 240 – 280, New Jersey: 120 – 140, and Idaho and Indiana: 48 – 56). If the number of credits your teen earns falls far outside of these benchmarks, something may be amiss! It could be that some courses you count as elective credit may actually be better recognized as extracurricular activities. See this recent issue of the newsletter for more details on how teens benefit from both elective courses and extracurricular activities.
There may be sound reasons for the total credits to fall outside of the ranges above. Your teen may be taking many dual enrollment college courses, and the credits are accumulating quickly. Perhaps your teen struggles with learning difficulties, and the number of credits he is capable of completing in a given year is lower than the norm.
We’ve taped a short video highlighting the various ways to determine high school credit, and you may find video No. 10 helpful to watch whenever you need a refresher course. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like our help as you determine credit for your teen’s high school courses, please feel free to contact us.
Next month, join us as we discuss trade, technical, and vo-tech opportunities for your teen.
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
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