Around the State

Ryan Wertz and Kathy Shelton, Education Specialists for World Languages and Cultures
Ohio Department of Education

Credit Flexibility

In this installment of Around the State, we’d like to focus on the topic of credit flexibility, or “credit flex,” as it is more commonly known. Ohio law requires each school district and community school to adopt a credit flexibility policy which complies with the state plan to award units of high school credit based upon a demonstration of subject area competency or learning expectations. The outcomes of this provision of the law are clear:

  1. Students can demonstrate what they already know for course credit and move on to higher-order content they are ready to learn and have not yet mastered; and
  2. Students can learn subject matter and earn course credit in ways not limited solely to “seat time” or the walls of a school building.

Subsequent clarification of the state’s credit flexibility law made it clear that schools and districts are required to actively help, not hinder, any of their students who wish to seek flexible credit. In essence, this education option is designed to give students a way to take charge of their own learning. Indeed, many students see more value in school when they can connect learning with personal interests, real-world situations, and future jobs. Credit flexibility is one way to increase a student’s interest in school and motivation to learn.

For world languages, credit flexibility is most often used by students who seek credit for their demonstrable proficiency in a native or heritage language. It is also popular with students who want to learn a language different from the ones offered at their schools as well as students who have had – or will have – a significant study abroad experience. In all these instances, students should be encouraged to use the credit flexibility option to achieve their goals. We pay a lot of lip service to student-centered education, but credit flexibility actually puts our good intentions to the grindstone and provides learners with a truly student-centered learning experience.

To help students who are interested in credit flex options, please refer to the World Languages Credit Flexibility Guidance that is posted on the Department’s website. This user-friendly document lays out both world language flexibility options: testing out and engaging in credit flex learning. Examples of students who would be eligible for both options are provided to help you determine which option would be best for your own students who wish to seek flexible credit. Additionally, step-by-step instructions are provided to ensure that the process is completed in accordance with state law.

As you work with students on matters related to credit flexibility, remember to consult the Department’s research-based Proficiency Targets for help in determining how much credit to award. Keep in mind that the amount of credit awarded based on your students’ demonstration of proficiency will vary between level I and II difficulty languages (e.g., Spanish, French, German, Latin) and level III and IV difficulty languages (e.g., Arabic, ASL, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian). Whenever you have students who earn significant flexible credit in world languages, be sure to also keep them in mind as possible candidates for an Ohio Seal of Biliteracy when they become eligible. 

If you haven’t reviewed your school’s or district’s credit flexibility policy lately, consider doing that to ensure that this information remains fresh in your mind. Many districts have not revisited their credit flexibility policies since they were first created back in 2010.  It might be worth taking a little time to examine your local policy to ensure that it is student-friendly and conforms to the recommended best practices for awarding flexible credit.  General information about credit flexibility can be found on the Department’s Credit Flexibility webpage. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about awarding flexible credit for world languages.

Upcoming Opportunities to Contribute to the Betterment of Our Field

Please remember that two opportunities are coming up for you to provide your input on important world language initiatives:

  • The Ohio Seal of Biliteracy Rule (3301-16-08) is up for a routine 5-year review. The Department will make revisions that it has proposed for the rule available for public comment over a 30-day period in March and April. 
  • The Model Curriculum for World Languages and Cultures has been undergoing revision so that it better supports your implementation of our new learning standards. An updated website will be published in mid-February.

Providing your input is a great way to contribute to K-12 world language education in Ohio. Look for the calls for participation to come out via our Ohio Ed Updates for World Languages e-newsletter and over the OFLA Google group listserv in the weeks ahead.
In closing, remember that you have many resources available to you when you visit the Department’s World Languages and Cultures webpage. If you haven’t visited recently, check it out.   Our Ohio Seal of Biliteracy guidance is available here.  OTES 2.0 guidance for our content area is located here. And credit flexibility guidance for world languages can be found on this page. As always, don’t hesitate to contact either one of us if you have questions or need assistance. We are here to help and support your work!

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