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DC State Board of Education Leads Creation of High School Credit Flexibility Task Force

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Contact: John-Paul C. Hayworth, Executive Director, (202) 741-0888

(Washington, DC) – The District of Columbia State Board of Education (SBOE) announced today the formation of a High School Credit Flexibility Task Force under the leadership of Ward 1 Board Member Laura Wilson Phelan. The State Board of Education approves high school graduation requirements for DC students. As such, it is convening a cross-city task force that will develop a set of recommendations for actionable rules and parameters for schools to award high school credit beyond the Carnegie unit.

The current District of Columbia school system awards high school credit based on a passing grade in a course where the student spent a minimum of 120 hours in class (referred to as the Carnegie unit), rather than awarding credit based on what a student demonstrated he/she has mastered (often called competency-based education). While establishing minimum time allocation for some courses may lead to the best outcomes for some students, for other students, the Carnegie unit may present an obstacle to learning.

“Meeting the learning needs of all students requires a personalized approach to ensure that they acquire the knowledge, skills, and mindsets to succeed in college, career, and civic affairs,” said Ward 1 Board Member Laura Wilson Phelan. “A critical step to enable personalized learning is to create flexibility beyond the time-based Carnegie unit for students to earn high school credit.”

The Carnegie unit was originally developed to systemize the awarding of academic credit. The unit is defined as 120 hours of contact time with an instructor—i.e., one hour of instruction a day, five days a week, for 24 weeks, or 7,200 minutes of instructional time over the course of an academic year.

“This task force will bring together education leadership from across the city to develop a common way for awarding high school credit based on mastery of content,” added Wilson Phelan. “The recommendations set forth by the task force will help guide the promotion of non-Carnegie unit education in the District of Columbia.” 

"I applaud the State Board of Education for addressing this gap in our education policy,” said Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles.  “Modernizing our high school credit system is incredibly important to allowing students to drive the pace and depth of their learning, enabling students who are behind the opportunity to catch up and for those seeking greater challenge to push ahead and be rewarded for it."  

The task force will include leadership from government and non-government education agencies, as well as representatives from local education authorities and civil society groups.

The State Board of Education provides policy leadership, support, advocacy, and oversight of public education to ensure that every student is valued and learns the skills and knowledge necessary to become informed, competent, and contributing global citizens. More information about the SBOE can be found at