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School policy serves students seeking challenge

The Federal Way School Board recently adopted Policy 2409, which allows students to challenge themselves by enrolling in more advanced classes, if they so choose.

Dr. Josh Garcia, assistant superintendent of teaching for learning, said this policy is yet another way that Federal Way Public Schools allow students to have more rigor in their academic careers.

The policy “allows for families and students to continue to challenge themselves at the highest level,” Garcia said. “It’s a policy that says kids can challenge out of classes and continue to get a rigorous education.”

Policy 2409 comes on the heels of the district’s accelerated academics policy, which automatically enrolls students into advanced classes if they meet the required metric on state testing. This policy has come under fire, especially from parents at Thomas Jefferson High School. They feel the accelerated academics policy has led to a culture of “teaching to the middle,” thus taking the rigor out of what were once difficult classes.

Garcia said about four or five families have used Policy 2409 so far. From the school district’s own research, it appears to be a policy not shared by any other districts in the state or nation. Garcia did note that there could be a similar policy out there, but the school district has not been able to find one yet.

According to the policy as written on the district website, 2409 is in place if “the student and parent/guardian wish to challenge a recommended course in a content sequence or other recommended course of study.” It notes that “course challenge options are available for credit bearing courses only.” This means that the policy applies only to high school credit courses. A middle school student who’s taking algebra, for example, could choose to challenge up to a high school level math class.

“If there’s the kid that says ninth-grade English is not challenging me at all, they can now opt up or test out,” Garcia said. “It’s content specific.”

Option 1 under Policy 2409 addresses the scenario described above, noting that the policy allows for students to only “skip one course level in a course sequence.” If a student wishes to jump more than one course in a given subject, the student is required to turn to Option 2 in Policy 2409, which allows for the administering of an “end of course exam.”

Policy 2409 is not meant to address students who wish to skip an entire grade level. The full policy can be viewed at www.fwps.org.

Garcia said he hopes Policy 2409 allows for students and families to feel like they have more control over the direction of their academic careers in Federal Way schools.

“We’re committed to try and find ways that each student is challenged at the highest level. (This) puts the decision back on the families, so they can advocate, and we can support them,” he said.

 

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