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Londonderry may allow 7th-, 8th-graders to earn high school credits

Union Leader Correspondent

January 20. 2018 1:47AM
Superintendent Scott Laliberte (Union Leader file photo)

LONDONDERRY — The Londonderry School District is looking to become the latest system in New Hampshire to allow seventh- and eighth-graders to earn high school credit.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Black presented information this week about implementing a policy that gives middle schoolers the opportunity to take advanced courses and apply credit toward high school graduation. The courses would have to demonstrate content requirements consistent with related high school courses, satisfactory performance by the student and the course policy would have to coincide with all school board guidelines.

“The principals, curriculum coordinators, and guidance from the high school and middle school have already discussed and support the idea of (seventh- and eighth-graders) earning credit, pending the approval of a new policy by the (Londonderry) School Board,” Black said in a memo to the board.

The superintendent’s office has conceptually introduced the idea to the school board and the policy will likely be discussed during a Feb. 20 meeting.

Superintendent Scott Laliberte said the conversation in Londonderry came out of the foreign language discussion, saying if middle school students demonstrate the same knowledge as their high school counterparts while using the same tests and evaluations, “it does make sense that we’d consider awarding credit.”

Assistant Superintendent Dan Black (Courtesy)

“This fits well with the efforts at (Londonderry High School) to offer college level courses as well, for those who are ready to learn that material,” Laliberte said. “The benefit is largely that it encourages students to challenge themselves at the most appropriate level. These opportunities already exist, but a change like this may make it more appealing to (eighth-graders).”

The state’s minimum standards statute, updated in July 2017, notes school boards may develop a policy granting “acknowledgement of achievement to students taking coursework in the seventh or eighth grade toward high school graduation.” Prior language only stated the pupils could “earn credit” without a more detailed explanation of acknowledging the achievement.

Both Black and Laliberte said there are several neighboring districts that have created similar policies, but no specific examples were given. The New Hampshire Department of Education reported Friday that it does not collect data on how many school districts in the state currently have implemented such a policy.

In Londonderry, the school principals and superintendent’s office would agree on the eligible courses and required competency for the seventh- and eighth-graders as part of an annual presentation. The high school principal will approve the course work and credit prior to students enrolling in the class in order for such credit to be applied toward high school graduation. 

Students who earn the credit during their middle school tenure would receive a “passing” grade only on their high school transcript.

Consensus among district officials in Londonderry is an alignment between Algebra 1 courses offered at both schools to be ready for the 2018-19 school year, and the proposed advanced foreign language classes could be ready by the 2019-20 school year.

“I fully support the creation of a new policy to allow middle school students to earn credit towards high school graduation,” Black said. “We should always strive to provide opportunities for advancement as a school system.”

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