Readiness Assessment Considerations
TPS desires that every student enjoy challenge and success in his or her courses. Courses that are too easy, too hard, or otherwise mismatched with the student’s readiness and trajectory often end in failure or drop, resulting in academic and financial loss for all parties. Even if the mismatched course is completed, satisfaction is low (for all parties) and future enrollment is less likely. TPS makes reasonable effort to match the student’s background, readiness, and trajectory to the course which we have designed carefully for specific levels, objectives, and successful outcomes. Every enrollment is reviewed and approved by TPS to verify the student’s readiness for the course and the course’s suitability for the student’s academic background and trajectory.
Prior and Concurrent TPS Courses
- Automatic Matriculation or Readiness Verification. If the student has taken or is taking the prior course from TPS, and the student achieved or is maintaining the grade listed in the Prerequisites (usually 75% or higher), the student is eligible to be automatically approved for the next course with no additional testing or reviews.
- Evaluated Matriculation or Readiness Verification. If the student has taken or is taking the prior course from TPS, and the student did not achieve or is not maintaining the grade listed in the Prerequisites (usually 75% or higher), but the prior grade is 70% or higher, the student may still enroll for the next TPS course. In this case, readiness assessment will be determined by a review of prior TPS coursework, readiness assessment testing, and consideration of age and grade level.
- Course Recovery. If the student took the prerequisite course from TPS with a Final Score below 70%, the student will generally not be allowed to matriculate to the next-level course(s) in the sequence. In this case, the student must re-take the unsuccessful course from TPS to be considered for further advancement in that subject within TPS.
Prior Non-TPS Courses
Many of our courses assume a level of knowledge, skill, and overall academic experience gained from specific prior courses. When we list specific courses as prerequisite to others, we are referring to full-year courses that include all the topics from a standard scope and sequence with substantial essay writing or closed-book exams (depending on the subject) evaluated by an external teacher (i.e., courses that are equivalent to the same TPS courses). For example, Algebra 2 assumes the student has completed a full-year Geometry course because even if the prior Geometry is not all going to be used in the Algebra 2 course, it will be needed in the subsequent Precalculus and Calculus courses (plus a number of other applied courses that are available in upper HS and college).
As another example, the AP English Literature and Composition exam requires extensive background in both literature and composition combined with intellectual maturity to prepare for the timed essay exam that allows no opportunity for discussion or review of missed prior material. The AP English Literature and Composition course cannot teach all the years of background and primary content that is needed, so TPS requires a specified number and level of full scope curriculum, externally evaluated courses (equivalent to the same TPS courses) as part of the readiness assessment process.
Readiness Assessment Testing
- Readiness assessment tests are spot checks of prerequisite knowledge. They are not comprehensive checks of all prerequisite knowledge or even all essential prerequisite knowledge for the enrolled course.
- Parents are encouraged to review the posted readiness assessment tests to help with selecting the right level courses in cases of uncertainty. Students should not use the posted readiness assessment tests to study or prepare for enrollment readiness verification.
- Readiness assessment tests are intended to be taken in one sitting with no prior exposure, review, or study; and no books or notes; no assistance from any source. Prior exposure to or preparation for the spot check readiness assessment test will invalidate the limited validity of the readiness assessment test.
- In cases where the student’s prior course background is not sufficiently equivalent to taking the same TPS courses (see Prior Non-TPS Courses above), but where the spot check readiness assessment test indicates that the student may still be ready for the enrolled course, we may request that the student take an extended readiness assessment test that is equivalent to a TPS final exam in the prerequisite course(s).
Age / Grade Level Considerations
TPS carefully designs and manages the academic content and standards of each course, including topics; texts and materials; discussion and interactive participation requirements; workload level and assignments pacing; evaluation type, frequency, and criteria; and other content factors. In designing and managing the academic content factors, we also consider the development of the intended student in areas that affect academic progress, including cognitive, emotional, social/relational, and other developmental considerations. We generally consider grade 9 (first year of high school) to be the year in which the student is 14 years old on Oct 1.
For example, elementary calculational math is learned first by rote, but algebra and later should be learned conceptually. The transition to conceptual learning should coincide with the student’s age-level cognitive development toward conceptual understanding. The student who attempts to learn conceptual math (algebra and higher) by rote (because of pushing ahead of cognitive development or not being guided to make the age-level cognitive transition) becomes limited or stalled in understanding and applying the math itself. Similar observations and concerns may be considered in the humanities (the study of written, spoken, and visual media to analyze human beliefs, behavior, and interrelationships from a critical perspective), where students can read and paraphrase content (mimicry) before they can conceptualize, analyze, and intuit on their own the meanings and implications of the content. The student who attempts to study advanced humanities relying on mimicry (because of pushing ahead of cognitive development or not being guided to make the age-level cognitive transition) becomes limited or stalled in effective analytical discourse (reading, writing, argumentation).
Workload and Pace
The fact that a student can read and understand the textbook or the readings for a course does not mean he or she is ready to take that course. A course requires not only intellectual capacity for the content, but also maturity, responsibility, and purpose to manage the pace of study, assignments, and evaluation in a course. For instance, it is one thing to have read and even discussed a particular novel, and another thing to prepare a 1500-word analytical essay on a self-generated original thesis derived from that novel, all while managing five other courses with similar requirements. Workload and pace are the most common reasons we see younger students quit or fail when taking courses designed for older students.
The concern for aligning course content to cognitive development is discussed above. However, in some subjects there are additional considerations of content maturity in the curriculum and social maturity in the classroom. Responsible course design and readiness assessment considers overall developmental readiness and need, to avoid bringing unnecessarily mature content and discussion to younger students and unrealistically simplified content and discussion to older students. For example, in the sciences, a younger student can understand the “mechanics” of the reproductive system before he or she is ready to (or needs to) appreciate all the emotional, relational, or social aspects of “reproductive health”. In the humanities (English, History, Social Sciences and Studies), students analyze and discuss human beliefs, behavior, and interrelationships from a critical perspective. Younger students — including intellectually talented younger students — are not ready to appreciate and grapple with the same depth or complexity or even some of the same issues as older students must consider as they prepare for college, career, social interactions, and civic discourse. Furthermore, mixing students of significantly different developmental and social ages in the same class does a disservice to both younger and older participants.
Individual Development, Talents, and Goals
As a general approach, TPS prefers to emphasize stronger foundation over acceleration. This approach leads to deeper learning, better retention, and higher grades. Competitive colleges look for clear indication of success potential in their own competitive programs (where a dropout or failure represents a financial, reputational, and missional loss), so they seek students with deeper learning, better retention, and higher externally validated grades and scores. Competitive colleges do not inherently favor students who complete required high school coursework faster or sooner, particularly if this “advancement” is accomplished through reduced scope, accelerated, self-study, discussion-based, parent-evaluated, or unevaluated courses. Competitive colleges also do not have high regard for HS transcripts that rely on community college, semester course, or summer school credits.
Enrollments Outside Posted Target Age / Grade Levels
Below Age / Grade Level Enrollments: For enrollments where the student is younger than the posted Target Age / Grade Level, we may require additional readiness assessment criteria:
- Concurrent enrollment in the supporting core course(s). For humanities and social studies courses, concurrent enrollment in TPS English Lit and Comp may be required. For science or some social science courses, concurrent enrollment in TPS Math may be required. Concurrent enrollment in the supporting core courses helps us to ensure we are contributing to a strong academic foundation and not just enabling acceleration built on a weak academic foundation.
- Where the student’s prior course background is not sufficiently equivalent to taking the same TPS courses (see Prior Non-TPS Courses above), but where the spot check readiness assessment test indicates that the student may still be ready for the enrolled course, we may request that the student take an extended readiness assessment test that is equivalent to a TPS final exam in the prerequisite course(s).
Above Age / Grade Level Enrollments: For enrollments where the student is older than the posted Target Age / Grade Level, we may require additional information to understand the academic background and context of the enrollment so we can participate in deciding if TPS is able to serve the unique individual needs of the student. In general, TPS will seek to support enrollments above Target Age / Grade Level and also offer possible paths for catch-up if desired by the student and parents.
TPS EFL teaches academic and analytical English (not just functional English) reading and writing. Academic English develops skill in the use of precise definitions, logical structures, and rhetorical devices in the process of analytical discussion, argumentation, and essay writing. TPS EFL also prepares students in conceptual math-related (not just rote math) analytical skills learned and developed in English. Learning conceptual math-related skills in English provides a foundation for success in math, science, and social science courses in English and supports development of analysis and argumentation skills in English. (The dependence of math, science, and social science on academic language can be seen in applications ranging from Algebra or Geometry “word problems” to the “logical argument” constructs of analytical writing.) The TPS EFL program has age limitations for starting the program, ongoing tutoring requirements to continue the program, and concurrent math requirements to complete the program.