Principal Dr. Steven Miller strolled through Clinton High School recently and pondered a new process on the horizon for some of his students.
That change is Credit by Demonstrated Mastery (CDM). Mandated by the North Carolina State Board of Education, it’s a process in which a student is awarded credit in a particular course without having to complete classroom instruction by completing a multiphase process.
“A pessimistic person would say it’s further erosion of public schooling,” Miller said. “An optimistic person would say it gives us an opportunity to award credit for students who have this high level of knowledge in this course or that course.”
At its core, Miller believes CDM takes teachers out of the equation.
“We are obligated to respond, but at the fundamental level, it brings concern for us because it takes the school out of the instructional loop,” Miller said. “That means that we have kids out there who don’t need classrooms or teachers.”
Lenora Locklear, instructional programs director for Clinton City Schools, recently presented the topic during a work session for the Board of Education.
The state statute indicates that the CDM purpose is to make sure students have a deep understanding of the content. Locklear said they’re going to have to be diligent in making sure that’s clear to parents and students.
“I think it’s going to be crucial with the curriculum department and the high school staff to be very clear with what’s involved in the new process,” she said.
The first phase would consist of a student exam and the second would include a presentation called an Artifact. Its purpose is for students to create an understanding of the content, ability to apply the skills and to gain knowledge expected for the course. Some of the presentations may include oral interviews, paper-based productions and electronic demonstrations.
The process may vary depending on the course. For instance, a conversational piece may be required for Spanish or a writing project for English.
Locklear said CDM gives students the opportunity to bypass the traditional scheduling of standard level courses.
“Then they’re out of going through the seat time,” Locklear said. “It provides them the opportunity to do that.”
Previously, students were required to take certain courses, but criteria have to be met. According to the state’s Board of Education the CDM route is going to be more rigorous.
CDM is only attended for standard level courses and does not apply to honor or advanced placement classes. Students will receive credit and a pass and it will not count towards a student’s grade point average.
Students have a choice of becoming involved with CDM, but they have to follow the timeline put in place. Locklear said it could allow a student to graduate early or skip a class to focus on another subject.
Each school system determines its timeline, but something has to be established by 2014-2015, so the students can have the opportunity to opt out. It has to be in place by the 2015-2016 school years.
Parents in Clinton will be notified in August and September about CDM. The application process will begin in December. That will be followed by a panel of educators creating exams in early winter. Students will test in February and if they pass, they can continue with the Artifact in March or April.
“After that we’ll have to stay on top of it,” she said. “In the summer, we’ll have to get students ready if they want to be prepared for the next school year. It’s an ongoing process that we’ll have to do now.”
Like Miller, several board members had concerns as well during the work session. They questioned if the process is going to be rigorous enough for the students to bypass seat time.
“I agree with our concern from the board, that we don’t make this an easy process,” she said.
Locklear said there’s value in seat time and interaction with teachers every day.
“But we may have some cases where children can bypass a certain course,” Locklear said. “We want to provide them the opportunity to show that they’re really ready to bypass this class and go to the next higher level.”
If that occurred, Miller said it would be rare and questioned why a whole system is being built around it.
“It should be for a group of small students who are precocious and very advanced,” Miller said. “But how much work are we going to be expected to do for something that’s a rare occurrence.”
Miller said it’s going to be interesting what the results will reveal. He believes in the work of the teachers, but questions the CDM process.
“It means that I can show up at your door and take biology without having anything and receive credit for that course,” Miller said. “That’s where it comes in as a problematic perspective for us.”
Teachers and students also weighed in on the matter.
English teacher Alicia Copeland said it’s a good idea for students who perform well on tests, but not in a classroom setting.
“I think it would be a good benefactor for them, simply because if they’re able to show they know the information on a mastery level, it saves them time and can speed up their educational process so they can go to college early,” Copeland said.
Copeland believes that only 15 percent of students could pass a CDM course.
History Teacher Jennifer Dirks said it could benefit a student, who wanted to make room for more electives. She said it could also make classes smaller.
In 19 years of teaching, she knows less than five students who would have succeeded in the CDM process.
“If they’re real strong in something, they can test out and move to the next level,” she said.
But she had precautions as well.
“But you have to be careful that you don’t have people pushing and accelerating their kids before they’re ready,” Dirks said.
Katelyn, a senior at Clinton High, said CDM could provide good opportunities for everyone, but could not imagine not taking some classes without a teacher in the classroom.
“It would be a lot harder because you don’t know a lot of the material,” she said.
Junior Adonis said it would be both stressful and interesting.
“It’s interesting if you know the material from someone that you know like your mom, family and friends,” he said about learning a subject before taking a class.
Adonis said he would make an attempt to use for CDM process for certain classes.
Senior Silas believes that about 50 percent of students would probably pass a CDM biology course.
“I probably would have done it if I had the chance,” Silas said.
(Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext.136. Follow us on Twitter @SampsonInd.)