If your state is considering including advanced coursework measures in school ratings, what questions should you ask? What should you watch out for?
Will the state look at participation in advanced coursework, success in the courses, or both?
If including something about advanced coursework in accountability, both participation and success need to count. Including only participation rates will create incentives to enroll all students without providing the necessary supports for success, while including only success rates will incentivize schools to make access available only to the perceived highest performers.
What types of advanced courses will the state include, and how will it ensure that the courses are truly rigorous?
Advanced course options typically include AP, IB, and dual enrollment classes. For AP and IB, end-of-course exams provide a check on the rigor of the class. Dual enrollment courses, however, often don t have a similar quality check. To ensure that the classes provide students meaningful advanced opportunities, states need to at minimum ensure that schools only receive credit for dual enrollment courses that earn students credit accepted by the state’s institutions of higher education.
How will the state measure participation and success?
Questions to ask about participation rates: Ask who qualifies as a participant: Any student who enrolls in a course, or (in the case of AP or IB classes) only a student who takes the exam? Will schools receive more credit for students who take multiple advanced courses? Who will count in the participation rate denominator — all students in the school, students in the graduating cohort, or students in certain grades such as grades 10 to 12?
- Tip: Watch out for attempts to only include “eligible” students in participation rate calculations. Depending on the definition of “eligible,” your state may be limiting access only to the highest performing students. Be wary, too, of including only graduates in the participation rate denominator: Doing so could increase the incentive to push lower performing students out of school entirely.
Questions to ask about success rates: Ask who counts as a successful completer: A student who got a passing grade? One who passed the end-of-course exam? One who earned credit for a dual enrollment course? Who will count in the success rate denominator — all students who enrolled in the course, just those who completed it, or just those who took the exam?
- Tip: All students who count as participants should be in the success rate denominator. And to the extent possible, make sure the definition of success is tied to something meaningful for students, such as a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam, or the grade needed to earn college credit in a dual enrollment course.
For the virtual learning environment, see CourseWork Course Management System.
Coursework is work performed by students or trainees for the purpose of learning. Coursework may be specified and assigned by teachers, or by learning guides in self-taught courses. Coursework can encompass a wide range of activities, including practice, experimentation, research, and writing (e.g., dissertations, book reports, and essays). In the case of students at universities, high schools and middle schools, coursework is often graded and the scores are combined with those of separately assessed exams to determine overall course scores. In contrast to exams, students may be allotted several days or weeks to complete coursework, and are often allowed to use text books, notes, and the Internet for research.
In universities, students are usually required to perform coursework to broaden knowledge, enhance research skills, and demonstrate that they can discuss, reason and construct practical outcomes from learned theoretical knowledge. Sometimes coursework is performed by a group so that students can learn both how to work in groups and from each other.
Plagiarism and other problems
Plagiarism and copying can be problematic in graded coursework. Easily accessible websites have given students opportunities to copy ideas and even complete essays, and remain undetected despite measures to detect this. While coursework may give learners the chance to improve their grades, it also provides an opportunity to "cheat the system". Also, there is often controversy regarding the type and amount of help students can receive while performing coursework. In most learning institutions, plagiarism or unreasonable coursework help may lead to coursework disqualification, student expulsion, or both.
- In the UK
Coursework was removed from UK GCSE courses and replaced by "Controlled Assessment", much of which must be completed under exam conditions, without teacher assistance and with access to resources tightly controlled in order to reduce the possibility of cheating. However, this too will shortly be largely removed and replaced by mainly exam-based assessment as part of a general GCSE reform.