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Oswego School District 308 Receives State Waiver for Junior High Students to Receive High School Credit

Feb 16, 2015 02:59PM ● By Steven Jack

Superintendent Matthew Wendt

The Illinois State Board of Education expressed unanimous support as it approved School District 308’s request for a waiver to allow junior high students to receive high school credit for the high school level courses they complete while in 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
On Wednesday, Feb. 11, Superintendent Matthew Wendt presented the waiver request to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) during its meeting in Springfield.  Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Judith Minor and attorney Laura Weizeorick representing the Board of Education joined Wendt. 
Wendt presented the waiver application to the ISBE to allow students in sixth through eighth grades the opportunity to receive high school credit for high school level coursework they complete while attending junior high school.
“Our students deserve to receive the credit they earn at the time they first earn it,” Wendt explained before outlining why the ISBE should support the waiver request.
After the presentation, State Superintendent Christopher Koch expressed his support for the waiver and the district.
“I have visited District 308, and they are doing great work,” he said.
Under current state law, students are only able to receive high school credit if the course is taught by a high school instructor, leaving two options, either the students have to travel to the high school for class, or a high school teacher travels to the junior high schools.
Wendt said both options are inefficient and unnecessary.
“This framework fails to be an efficient use of our resources and is a waste of teachers’ and/or students’ valuable time,” he said, explaining that the waiver would allow teachers certified in secondary education to teach the course at the junior high level for high school credit.
Currently District 308 has 93 junior high teachers who hold a license to teach kindergarten through ninth grade and/or sixth through 12th, and they have content endorsements at the high school level in 18 different areas.
District 308 has more than 300 junior high school students taking Algebra I.  These students receive the same curriculum, same high level of instruction, and have access to the same resources and support as high school students who take this course, but they do not receive high school credit, Wendt explained to the ISBE.
In addition, the district currently has 26 junior high school students who are taking Honors Geometry and Honors Algebra II by traveling to one of our two high schools. These students receive the same curriculum, the same high level of instruction, and the same resources and support, but unlike the junior high students taking high school algebra at a junior high, these honor students receive high school credit for the courses they complete. 
“We believe both groups of students—those taking high school algebra and those taking Honors Algebra II and Honors Geometry— should remain at their junior high schools and receive high school credit when taught by junior high teachers with the required license or endorsements,” said Wendt.  
After the presentation ISBE Chair James Meeks expressed support for the waiver request and stated that it “makes sense.”
Board Vice-Chair Steven Gilford echoed Meeks’ comments before asking the Board to consider sending the District 308 waiver to the General Assembly with support from ISBE because it could benefit school districts across the entire state.  He believed that (ISBE’s) support for the waiver would be helpful if the board wanted to institute a change in the statute.