High school students no longer will be required to sit in a classroom to earn credit toward graduation.

High school students no longer will be required to sit in a classroom to earn credit toward graduation.

Beginning this fall, Worthington students will be offered credit flexibility, which will allow them to design learning experiences that can take place at home in front of a computer, in the community, or even in a foreign country.

Credit flexibility is not a program designed for Worthington only, but one adapted from requirements set down by the Ohio General Assembly in 2006 through Senate Bill 311.

A team of educators wrote Worthington's guidelines and presented them to the Worthington Board of Education on Monday.

The program allows students to customize their learning around their own interests and needs.

Students can still earn credits the traditional classroom way. They also can opt to test out of a course or courses. They may earn credit by pursuing distance learning, educational travel, independent study, internship, after-school programs, community service, or an engagement project.

The testing-out option will not be available until second semester as a pilot program. The district received permission from the state to delay that part of the program, which will allow a student to earn credit for a class by showing proficiency through an exam.

But beginning first semester, students will be able to approach a teacher and present a proposal for an alternative learning experience. The proposal must be approved by the teacher and the department head.

College courses can also provide high school credit, and on-line courses can be those offered by the district or an approved provider.

The student earns the credit by demonstrating mastery through testing, a portfolio of his or her work, or some combination of methods.

The district cannot limit the number of credits earned through any of these methods, which concerns at least one board member.

The state of Ohio probably over-reached in placing no limitations on credit flexibility, said David Bressman.

"We should be taking baby steps," he said.

Students could possibly miss the experience of a Worthington classroom, which can be a special place, he said.

But board member Marc Schare said he was excited about the possibilities.

"I commend you for embracing this," he told the credit flexibility committee that put together the guidelines. "You guys did a hell of a job."

Board member Charlie Wilson said he also supports the program, but wants to be sure it does not become a system of "haves and have-nots."

For example, students whose parents have connections in the community should not have more opportunities than others.

Those challenges have already been faced with the senior project program, said teacher Dave Miller, who sat on the committee. It has already been demonstrated that teachers can handle that, he said.

He said he is excited about the potential of the program.

"I can't wait to get them out of the four walls of a classroom, because that is where real life happens," he said.

Worthington Kilbourne High School principal Ed Dunaway said an aggressive marketing plan will go into effect to clearly articulate the program to students, parents, and the community.

"I think it will create some relationships and create some communication lines we haven't had in the past," he said.