FDSH applies for state exemption

Fort Dodge Senior High has reapplied for a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education to exempt the school from certain accreditation standards regarding seat time to awarding credits.

“It’s taking a look at more instead of how many hours did you plant your butt in the seat, what do you know when you’re all said and done with the class, no matter how many hours it took you,” said Principal Dave Keane. “In other words, once we feel a student has met competencies that are required in that course we can award the student credit.”

According to Keane, the current statute requires 3,600 minutes of class time to be awarded course credit.

The senior high applied for the school last year and is reapplying for the waiver this year. It has only been implemented, though, with the district’s alternative school students.

“We have kids that are in our alternative school taking online courses,” Keane said. “The online courses, oftentimes, they can complete those because they can work on them outside of school time. So they’re not actually in school for 3,600 minutes completing that course.”

The school’s Talented and Gifted students would also benefit from the exemption, Keane said.

“We have some TAG students right now who have taken a look at the competencies of the course and we’re taking a look at, is there a way to go ahead and test out of certain aspects of the course so they can spend more time on some of the other competencies that maybe are a little bit higher level,” Keane said. “Then they can get awarded credit for mastering those competencies.”

This is already being adopted by other schools.

“I know right now Spirit Lake has applied for the same waiver for the past two years and I know they have certain competencies laid out and if their kids can demonstrate mastery of those competencies they’re exempt from the class,” Keane said.

He added, “If they can already do it there’s no use in them taking a class.”

Fort Dodge Senior High students already are benefiting from a program called “honors by contract,” Keane said.

“All the kids take the regular class, they have to demonstrate mastery of the regular competencies,” he said. “But if there are some skills or competencies that they want to demonstrate either a higher proficiency level or they want to add some additional things to it that they’re interested in learning, if they successfully complete that contract, we’ll put honors on that course, on the transcript, even though there was someone in the course who didn’t choose to do those things.”

Though the school applied for the waiver and is now reapplying, greater changes are not ready to be made.

“We’re not as far into it as some of the other schools,” Keane said. “We applied for it last year and were awarded it. We reapplied for this next year, but we haven’t gotten really to the point where we’re ready to implement it. We’ve done some study, but we haven’t implemented it outside of our alternative school.”