Beginning next year, Worthington high school students will be able to earn course credits without sitting in a classroom.

Beginning next year, Worthington high school students will be able to earn course credits without sitting in a classroom.

The school district, like districts all over the state, is on a fast track to design a program that allows students to either "test out" of classes or to earn credit using methods such as senior projects, distance learning, college coursework, research projects or educational travel.

The Ohio Credit Flexibility Plan was created by Senate Bill 311, which mandates that district offer student opportunities to earn units of high school credit based on the demonstration of subject area competency, instead of or in combination with completion of classroom instruction.

High school administrators have been meeting for a couple of months to figure out exactly what this will mean in Worthington. They presented their progress to the Worthington Board of Education on Monday night.

"There is a lot to do to figure out the nuts and bolts of how to do this," Thomas Worthington High School principal Jim Gaskill told the board.

Among the issues to be considered is how credit will be determined, either by teachers, a multi-disciplinary team, a professional community panel or by a state assessment.

And cost.

Board member Jennifer Best called the plan "another unfunded mandate from the state."

Some districts that are piloting the program are charging students for the cost of assessment, and the state does allow that, said administrator Jennifer Wene.

Board members seemed both excited by the possibilities of the program and concerned about its possible misuse.

"This whole thing was written by someone who never had high school kids," said board member Charlie Wilson.

Students who test well could avoid taking courses, and those using unconventional methods of learning could miss valuable lessons in reading, writing, and critical thinking, he said.

"The main thing is to make sure the rigor is there," Wilson said.

Anything that is done will emphasize rigor and relevance, said Worthington Kilbourne High School principal Ed Dunaway.

"The whole point of the program is to personalize their learning without sitting in a classroom for a year," he said.

Board member Marc Schare said the board must decide philosophically how far it wants to go with the program.

"Does Worthington want to fully embrace credit flexibility and become a leader in the state?" he asked.

Part of that answer will come from the receptiveness of the community, Dunaway said.

"I don't know if our students will embrace it right off the top," he said.

Glasbrenner said the district is embracing the program, but it is an enormous responsibility to have to put it together by next year.

"I fully believe we would have gotten to this same place on our own," he said. "The Ohio Credit Flexibility Plan has just accelerated this for us."