The word credit can be kind of scary for parents. You need credits to graduate high school. You need credits to get into college. So just what is a credit and how does a student earn one?
Let’s start by defining a credit.
For high school purposes a credit is a point given in exchange for a certain amount of work put into an academic subject. Credits are usually assigned by hours and in intervals of ½. Points are earned throughout the student’s high school years and are exchanged for a diploma when all credit requirements are met.
Now that we know what a credit is let’s talk about how one is earned and what it means for graduation and college entrance. This is where it gets a little wishy-washy, so pay attention.
First: KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAW. Follow your local law. There are some states with hours per year & subjct requirements and if you follow the law you can rest easy assigning your child credit for each subject.
For those of us who live in states without such requirements it’s not quite as clear cut. Currently there is no standard definition of how many hours of work equal a credit but there are guidelines.
Generally a credit is earned for every 120-180 hours of work (or roughly 45-90 minutes each weekday for the traditional school year of 180 days), including independent study, reading about the subject, homework, etc.
A credit can also be given when a complete textbook or curriculum is finished, regardless of how long it took the student to finish.
But what about courses where the student doesn’t use a standard textbook or curriculum? What about courses that don’t meet the 120-180 hours guideline but were still academically valuable? What about advanced and honors classes?
Ok, take a deep breath. Let’s tackle these topics one-by-one.
For courses that don’t use a standard textbook or curriculum: just estimate. If you feel your child did enough work in the subject to qualify as a credit, give them a credit. If you aren’t sure about giving a whole credit you can assign half credit. If the subject is a “core”, like math or reading, I encourage you to give your child enough work to make an entire credit per year.
For courses that don’t take 120-180 hours: you can assign a half credit. If you feel that the course was truly a year worth of work that just didn’t take a year you can always assign a full credit.
Advanced Placemnt (AP) and Honors courses are often given more credit in high schools. Many high schools give students 2 credits for AP classes and 1.5 for Honors. By all means you can assign your child higher credit for these courses for high school graduation purposes.
Please note: If your child applies to attend college they may be asked to show proof that the course qualified as AP or Honors, and even with proof the college may still count the class as just 1 credit. If you plan on assigning higher credit for AP or Honors classes I recommend these credits be in addition to the credit amount needed for high school graduation.
Here is a fun graphic I created to help you on your credit-assigning journey. Please remember that I am not an attorney and I am not telling you what to do. I am merely providing suggestions on how to proceed. You are responsible for your child’s education and for ensuring they meet all local law requirements and high school graduation requirements.
Click on the graphic to see a larger size.
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