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Placement Process and Criteria

Background

“TPS placement processing for an individual student enrolling in a particular course involves more than just a test score or a transcript…”

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.

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).

TPS placement processing for an individual student enrolling in a particular course involves more than just a test score or a transcript. In placing a student in a course, TPS seeks to objectively and individually match the student’s academic background and developmental readiness to the purpose, content, and standards of our course. Our overall placement intention is to keep the student’s academic level and developmental level progressing together in healthy alignment in each academic subject and overall.

Requirements

Requirements are summarized here (before the explanatory details) so they may be easily observed and readily followed. Failure to follow these requirements may result in enrollment disapproval and drop.

  • Prerequisites and Notes. Review the Prerequisites and all Notes for the course in the Course Catalog. Please do not enroll in a course until all Prerequisites and Notes are met.
  • Age / Grade Level Waiver. Review the Target Grade Levels for the course in the Course Catalog. Please do not enroll in a course outside of these levels unless you have written Age / Grade Level Waiver from TPS Support.
  • Placement Documents. If a Placement Test is required for your situation by the Prerequisites, administer it properly (see below) and be ready to submit it upon enrollment (same day). Please do not enroll in a course until you are ready to submit all required placement documents.

Explanatory Information

Placement and Matriculation Criteria

  • TPS uses multiple factors in determining Placement Approval as objectively as possible:
    • Prior and concurrent TPS courses. This is the dominant factor in Placement Approval.
    • Prior non-TPS courses curriculum and grades. Only full scope curriculum externally evaluated courses are considered; reduced scope, accelerated, self-study, discussion-based, parent evaluated, or unevaluated courses are not considered. Further explanation is provided below.
    • Student age and grade level. TPS seeks to objectively and individually match the student’s academic background and developmental readiness to the purpose, content, and standards of our course. Additional explanation is provided below.
    • Placement testing. A placement test is often required when there are not prior or similar TPS coursework and grades to make a clear placement determination. Placement tests inform the process, but are insufficient by themselves to determine Placement Approval. If a placement test or questionnaire is required, it must be submitted upon enrollment (same day). Additional details are below.
  • Automatic Matriculation or Placement Approval: 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 Placement Approval: 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, Placement Approval will be determined by a review of prior TPS coursework, placement 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.

Academic Grade Level

TPS uses the student’s TPS English Language Arts level and TPS Math level to determine the student’s overall academic grade level within TPS. This may or may not align with the student’s age or Grad Year. If the student is not taking English Language Arts and Math with TPS, enrollment is welcome but placement approval will be based on less information and so may be more limited.

English as a Foreign Language (EFL)

TPS provides an exceptional TPS EFL program to teach academic English to TPS students whose first language is not English to prepare them for the TPS Diploma Partnership. Enrollment in TPS EFL as a standalone English Language program or to support schools other than TPS is not supported. A new student for EFL-I must no older than 11 years on Oct 1 of the enrollment year because when a student completes EFL-I, he or she is prepared for Writing Fundamentals 5 with EFL-A Tutoring and is generally limited to grade 5 courses. TPS grade 5 courses are not suitable for much older students because the academic content is for young students. TPS will also generally not matriculate or retain EFL students whose progress and plans do not keep them on track for the TPS Diploma Partnership in high school.

Prior Course Background

Many of our courses assume a level of knowledge, skill, and overall academic experience gained from specific prior courses. No placement test can be sufficient to verify this background. When we list specific courses as prerequisite to others, we are referring to “full scope”* curriculum, externally evaluated courses (equivalent to the same TPS courses). For example, Algebra 2 assumes the student has completed a full scope 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 placement approval process.

* In terms of academic preparation for higher courses or college, “full scope” means that the course covers the topics that require mastery for higher courses as are found in competitive high schools and colleges.

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.

Content Maturity

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 placement 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 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.

However, there are still many instances where advanced work or accelerated progress is in the competitive student’s best interests. For example, a student who has a realistic goal of taking an AP language exam with highest potential for a score of 5 by grade 12 is well-advised to start with HS Year 1 of the language in grade 8 because the potential for a score of 5 is considerably higher for students who have four years of study prior to taking the AP course and exam versus students who have only three prior years of study (even for strong students, because of the significant benefits of the extra year of practice and experience). Along similar lines, a student who aspires to take multiple AP or college math/sciences courses in upper high school may be well-served by taking HS Biology in grade 8 to allow an extra year of HS for upper level courses.

Where a student’s individual background, talents, and goals support early or accelerated enrollment in specific courses, TPS will advise and encourage the enrollments that help the student towards his or her strongest individual transcript. Because of the importance of aligning background, talents, and goals in considering the risks versus benefits of early or accelerated enrollments, TPS will generally limit these options to students in our Diploma Partnership where we have the collaborative relationship to mitigate the risks and maximize the benefits in a holistic academic plan.

Students not in our Diploma Partnership who want to enroll outside the Target Grade Levels posted for each course in our course catalog must seek a written Age / Grade Level Waiver from TPS Support ([email protected]) prior to enrolling in the course (or requested in writing immediately with enrollment). Students not in the TPS Diploma Partnership who enroll in a course outside the Target Grade Levels without a written waiver from TPS Support may be dropped from the course and other related courses or placed in Audit status for the course.

Placement Testing

  • Sample placement tests are posted in the Course Catalog to help families select the right level courses in cases of uncertainty. Sample placement tests should not be studied or used to prepare for placement.
  • Sample placement 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.
  • Placement 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. Any prior exposure to or preparation for the spot check placement test will invalidate the limited validity of the placement test.
  • The student must be enrolled in the TPS course to submit placement documents for that course.
    • Placement documents for a course should be submitted promptly (same day) upon enrolling in that course.
    • Placement documents are submitted from the Family Account in the Enrolled Courses view.
    • Extensions will not be granted for placement documents, and students should not enroll until they are ready to submit placement documents upon enrolling.