TPS lists Target Grade levels for each course in our catalog. Enrollments that are outside of these Target Grades require TPS written approval (an “Age/Grade Level Waiver”). The basis for these Target Grade levels and for requiring a waiver for enrollments outside of them are:
Academic Level and Background
Most courses assume a mastery of knowledge and skills from prior courses. The standard upward progression in core subjects assumes that the student takes a series of full-scope* courses that prepare for subsequent levels. For example, Algebra 2 assumes the student has completed a full-scope Geometry course because even if it is not all going to be used in the Algebra 2 course, it will be needed in PreCalculus and Calculus (plus a number of other applied courses that are available in upper HS and college). HS Biology and Chemistry are best taken after completing full-scope Life Science and Physical Science courses in middle school because the content of the middle school courses helps the student learn more and get higher grades in the HS courses that will be on the HS transcript. TPS will consider students “skipping” a full-scope course to catch up to a Target Grade level, but will not support skipping or reducing the scope of a prior full-scope course to accelerate beyond a Target Grade Level. We consider enrollment above Age/Grade levels only in subjects where we can verify that the student has successfully completed reputable full-scope externally-evaluated prior courses.
* (“Full-scope” can mean a few different things. In terms of state graduation requirements for high school, it means that the course meets that state’s requirements for content of that course. While each U.S. state differs a bit, there is more commonality than difference in the requirements for the content of standard high school courses. In terms of academic preparation for higher courses or college, it means that the course covers all the topics that require mastery for standard higher courses as are found in high schools and colleges. Reputable textbook publishers write (and peer-review and certify) their texts to meet these various standards and expectations because this allows for widest adoption and purchase of their text. Though there will always be ongoing debate about specific content in specific courses (e.g., origin of species in Biology), TPS is committed to providing courses that meet standard requirements by states and wide expectations by colleges (with thoughtful biblical consideration of controversial topics), so the student is prepared for whatever he chooses to pursue at the next level without being hindered by inadequate preparation or limited options at a prior level.)
Academic Workload and Pace
The fact that a student can read and understand the textbook or the readings for a course does not mean he is ready to take that course. A course requires not only intellectual capacity for the content, but also maturity to manage the pace of the 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. Or in Algebra, a student may be capable of manipulating the math formulas in a rote process but academically unprepared to understand the conceptual word problems that must be inductively transformed into the math equations beforehand. We consider enrollment above Age/Grade levels only where we can be sure that the student is not only intellectually ready for parts of the course, but also has the overall academic maturity for successfully completing the entire course in the required time frame.
Academic Content Maturity
A student is able to read the words of a literary work before he can understand the overall meaning of a passage. He is able to intellectually understand an explanation of the meaning before he can appreciate the meaning and inductively see larger implications. Regardless of whether he can read the words and follow the discussions, placing a student in a humanities course above his emotional and analytical readiness does a disservice to that student and every other student in the course. We consider enrollment above Age/Grade levels only where it will not result in the student being placed into (or later placed into) courses that are beyond his maturity readiness and need.
When we can verify that a student is ready for a course beyond his Age and Grade Level under the considerations listed above, we will approve the enrollment. Otherwise we will respectfully decline and encourage that the student enroll in TPS courses that more thoroughly and thoughtfully prepare for higher courses.