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High school credit for Seattle's middle school students

Starting this year, middle school students in Seattle could finally get some credit on their high school transcripts, that is.  Seventh and eighth graders who take high school level courses can now apply them towards graduation.  The policy has pluses and minuses for young kids.

Educators say, on one hand, the policy gives credit where credit is due.  Kim Whitworth, principal of Eckstein Middle School  in Seattle, says her school has long offered advanced classes, such as algebra, geometry and world languages.

"The kids had already been taking these classes," she says. "It was the same class that was taken at the high school level. They should get high school credit for it here."

State lawmakers agree.  Several years ago, they passed a law that requires school districts to grant credit for high school equivalent courses, regardless of where they're taught.  For classes to be considered equal, teachers have to be certified at the high school level and the curriculum has to match.

Fans of the policy say it gives students more flexibility to take electives in high school or graduate early.  But Whitworth says it might be too stressful for some kids.  Once the credits are on a high school transcript, they're not coming off.  That means college applications might depend on grades students get when they're 12-years-old.

"We've got opportunities for kids to take things that are really, academically, things they can handle," says Whitworth.  "But the other piece of that is, are we a middle school or a junior high?  With middle school comes the social, emotional, and cognitive development of middle school kids.  And it does put pressure on kids."

Students who don't want high school credit for these classes don't have to take it.  And they don't have to decide right away.  The policy requires families to put in a request for the credits after the student enters high school.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.