One of the requirements of Gov. Ted Strickland's education reform, "flex credit," is official policy in the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge local school districts, but so far no students are taking advantage of it.

One of the requirements of Gov. Ted Strickland's education reform, "flex credit," is official policy in the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge local school districts, but so far no students are taking advantage of it.

The Ohio Department of Education has required every district to adopt a flex credit policy, but has also allowed districts to seek a temporary waiver of assessment methods. That means that students can receive credit for work outside the traditional classroom, but the burden of assessing what qualifies as sufficient work falls on the principal or another responsible person at the school

Kim Jakeway, principal at Johnstown Monroe High School said the district offers the option now.

"We have our guidance counselor talk to the kids about flex credit," Jakeway said. "We're prepared to offer it if they want to come in. They can earn credit by completing course work, test out by demonstrating mastery of course content, use distance learning, educational travel, internship, community service, sports, arts, independent study.

"It broadens the curriculum option for the students," he said.

At Northridge, high school principal Jim Hall is responsible for approving any flex credit application.

"I haven't had anyone ask about it yet," Hall said. "If a kid comes in wanting to test out of algebra II, I'd have to ask my math teachers what tests would show they have the ability to test out of the class."

Eventually the schools will be required to establish more formal assessment methods, but for now they have more time to do so.

"It's called a flexibility implementation waiver," Jakeway said. "It allows us a little more time to work on our plan. It allows us to develop assessment strategies and instruments we might use for the testing out option.

"You want to involve your staff, department heads and everyone you need if the students are going to test out," he said.

Jakeway said he expected students who were at the high performing end of the academic curve would be most likely to use flex credit, because of the heavy documentation required for approval.

"I think we'll have a mixture, but probably the high end because there is quite a bit that they have to do in terms of defining their goals and establishing a timeline," Jakeway said.

Hall said he thought it might go the other way: more students at the lower end of the spectrum might take advantage of the option. At this time, he said, many high performing students are already taking post-secondary classes, receiving not only high school credit, but also college credit. Flex credit is limited to high school requirements.

"I'm real excited about the possibility of using it for kids who are not successful sitting in a chair and need another way to show they've mastered the course content," Hall said. "It doesn't even show up as anything special on your transcript. If they test out of algebra I, it just says algebra I on the transcript, just as if you had taken the class."

Hall said flex credit is being discussed as an alternative to "seat time," an idea in American education that has been defined as a certain number of hours in the classroom, rather than the more basic question of whether the student is competent in the subject area.

For schools, the hard part of the option is testing.

"If a student decides to do something very creative, how do you assess that?" Hall said. "There are guidelines from the state, but my fear is, what if we have a student who wants a technology credit and we don't have a teacher to assess the standards in the content area?

"An example might be a kid who wants an elective credit for woodshop at home with dad," he said. "If I don't have an industrial arts teacher on staff, the duty falls back on the principal (to assess)."

Until students begin using the option, though, the schools won't have firm answers on how the process will work.

"We'll just have to see how it plays out," Jakeway said.