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MULTIPLE AND DIVERSE PATHS TO STUDENT SUCCESS:
A GUIDE TO THE USE OF OPTION TWO
The New Jersey Department of Education will
provide for a superior education by utilizing multiple and
diverse paths to success for all children in New Jersey.
The purpose of this document is to provide local
school districts with guidelines to assist with the implementation
of N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii, commonly known as "Option
Two." Option Two, or program completion, permits district
boards of education to determine and establish curricular activities
or programs aimed at achieving the Core Curriculum Content Standards
for promotion and graduation purposes. Option Two serves as an
alternative to traditional high school courses and involves in-depth
experiences that may be provided by school district personnel or
instructors not employed by the school district. Option Two may
include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following: interdisciplinary
or theme-based programs, independent study, magnet programs, student
exchange programs, distance learning, internships, community service,
co-curricular or extra-curricular programs, and/or other structured
learning experiences. In addition, N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii(3) permits
district boards of education to recognize successful completion
of an accredited college course that assures achievement of the
knowledge and skills delineated in the Core Curriculum Content
Standards or includes learning that builds on and goes beyond the
This guide provides a framework for local policy
development and program implementation. However, it is the responsibility
of the district board of education, administration, and high school
principal to ensure that such programs support the achievement
of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards. The guide
provides local districts with a series of important considerations
that should be addressed when considering the implementation of
an Option Two program.
The New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards
establish a core body of knowledge and skills that all students
need in order to become healthy, productive, well-informed employable
citizens of an ever-expanding and changing world. The department
acknowledges, however, that all students will not achieve the standards
in the same way, at the same pace, or with the same level of success.
In order to maximize student achievement, the department encourages
local school districts to permit alternative learning experiences
that are stimulating and intellectually challenging, and that enable
students to fulfill or exceed the expectations set forth in the
Core Curriculum Content Standards. Option Two (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii)
of the high school graduation requirements allows local school
districts to design and/or approve educational experiences that
serve as an alternative to traditional instruction and provide
meaningful learning experiences that support student achievement
of the Core Curriculum Content Standards. Option Two allows schools
to provide a superior education for all students through the use
of multiple and diverse paths.
The purpose of Option Two is to provide educational
experiences that are meaningful and relevant, and that provide
students with opportunities to explore and achieve at high levels.
Option Two allows local school districts to design and implement
curricular programs that meet the needs of all students. The regulations
support student participation in deep and meaningful learning experiences
that advance student learning and focus on student interest and
abilities. Option Two allows students to obtain credit for learning
experiences outside of the traditional classroom environment. Some
of these experiences may provide real-world connections not available
in the school setting. Other learning experiences may go beyond
what the traditional high school can provide, allowing students
to participate in research, international study, or college-level
work. Appendix A provides district examples of Option Two programs.
N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1 directs district boards
of education to develop, adopt, and implement requirements for
a State-endorsed diploma. Traditionally, this has consisted of
a series of "credits" in required content areas, with
the State dictating a minimal number of credits needed for graduation
from high school. Local school districts are permitted to establish
additional course or credit requirements. Credits are based on
seat time; that is, if a class meets five times per week for 40
minutes or more, the student is awarded five credits for successful
completion of the class. Recently, states have begun to encourage
variations in traditional seat time programs, such as block scheduling
or a redesigned senior year experience.
As part of the departments commitment to
standards-based reform, the State Board of Education adopted regulations
in 2001 that more clearly connected the high school graduation
requirements to the Core Curriculum Content Standards. The new
regulations clarified an existing alternative practice, then in N.J.A.C.6:3-4A.1(c)ii.
Subsequently, the department received numerous inquiries about
the use of Option Two and its impact on student graduation, promotion,
and achievement. Informal feedback indicated that many local school
districts did not understand how Option Two might be used and,
as a result, did not use it. In January 2004, the State Board adopted
revised high school graduation regulations that provide clarification
about how Option Two might be used in local school districts.
POLICY AND IMPLEMENTATION CONSIDERATIONS
Local School District Roles and Responsibilities
N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1 requires district boards
of education to develop, adopt, and implement requirements for
a State-endorsed diploma. Local boards establish the number of
credits, over and above State requirements, that students need
in order to graduate. In addition, the regulations permit district
boards of education to offer graduation credit through an Option
Two program. Should the district choose to offer an Option Two
program, the board must develop policies that address how participating
students will be able to achieve the Core Curriculum Content Standards. In order for an Option Two program to be successful,
district boards of education, school administrators, and teachers
must ensure that policies and procedures are in place and that
they are carried out with fidelity.
If a local school district decides to offer Option
- The District Board of Education must
approve general policies and procedures for the implementation
of Option Two as well as any performance or competency assessments
that will be used to determine student completion of programs.
The board must ensure that programs and related assessments
are based on specific instructional objectives aimed at meeting
or exceeding the Core Curriculum Content Standards. Group programs
shall be approved by the board in the same manner as with other
courses while individual requests shall be filed in the local
district and are subject to review by the Commissioner or his
staff (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii(1-3)). District boards
of education must ensure equitable access to such programs
while weighing the overall benefits and costs to the student(s)
and the district as a whole. District policies must clearly
address issues such as student safety, transportation, tuition,
and fees. The safety of students involved in Option Two programs
is of critical importance. The district board of education
must ensure that approved programs comply with applicable
laws and regulations (e.g., child labor laws, occupational
District boards should consider the need for procedures that
are consistent with their own employment practices, such
as criminal background checks and employee physical examinations.
- The Chief School Administrator must
ensure that the district board of education has full understanding
of the proposed use of Option Two. It is important for
the success of the program that the superintendent delegate
for the program to the high school principal. The superintendent
should also allow district curriculum specialists to support
the principal in the review of Option Two requests as well
as with the selection and implementation of proficiency
or competency assessments. In addition, the chief school administrator
should engage in discussions
with K-8 sending districts to ensure that policies, procedures,
and expectations for coursework prior to high school and
proficiency assessments are aligned. The chief school administrator
must ensure that annual data
collection takes place and that a regular program evaluation
and reported to the board and the public.
- The Principal has primary responsibility
and authority for the implementation of the Option Two
program and must oversee all aspects of the program. This can
be accomplished through the implementation of a building-level
Option Two Review Committee, comprised
of the principal, other administrators, teachers, and other
staff members. This committee assists the principal to
collect and review pertinent information about the proposed
Two program and recommends to the principal the approval
or disapproval of the alternative activity. The committee
also suggest possible Option Two opportunities and should
be involved in the identification and/or development of
assessments. In order to certify completion of the curricular
programs and activities based upon specific instructional
objectives (N.J.A.C. 6A:5.1-(a)1ii(c)) aligned to
the standards, principals must develop mechanisms to document
and program completion on student records. The principal
is ultimately responsible for certifying that the student
successfully completed the program. The success of the
Option Two experience rests on the building principal.
- Content Area Supervisors should assist
with communication, documentation, and assessment and provide
regular feedback to the principal to ensure that students
in alternative programs will be able to meet or exceed the
standards. Supervisors may also assist with the selection
of teachers and mentors for Option Two activities.
- School Counselors should be involved
in developing and maintaining a documentation process.
Policies that address class rank, grade point average, and
need to be addressed.
- District Teaching Staff Members are
an important part of the Option Two program. It is imperative
that teachers employed by the district board of
education follow accepted policies and procedures for course
approvals, and documentation. Teacher commitment, participation,
and engagement in the process will contribute to successful
learning experiences for the students.
- Instructors not employed by the district must
be consulted regarding how the program design aligns with
the Core Curriculum Content Standards and is of sufficient
to ensure student achievement. Principals must ensure that
the qualifications and experience of the instructor match
the outcome of the Option Two program. Instructors in Option
programs must also provide evidence that the program is
safe and in compliance with child safety and/or labor laws.
must participate in ongoing communication and reporting,
generally with the building principal or designee, to ascertain
progress and course completion.
- Parents/guardians may initiate a request
for Option Two status for an existing school-sponsored
course or activity. They may also request that an external
taught by an individual who is not employed by the district
board of education, be used to fulfill state and local
requirements. The high school principal based on local district
determines whether this request results in an Option Two
program. The parent/guardian must comply with
any requests for information about external programs, in
order to ensure that the student participates in activities
are safe, rigorous, and aligned with the standards and
local curriculum. The principal is responsible for verifying
the activities are appropriate. In addition, when a student
participates in an external program, his/her parents/guardians
may be responsible for paying for the course or activity
or providing transportation, specialized equipment, or materials.
Regular communication between the instructor, the school,
the parent/guardian is essential to program success.
- Students who participate in Option
Two programs have some additional responsibilities regarding
what they are learning in the program. They must keep accurate
records of attendance and assignments and share them, upon
request, with school staff. In addition, students must
participate in the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA)
and may be
required to participate in local assessment programs. Students
should be called upon to provide school officials with
an evaluation of their Option Two experiences.
Policy and Program Development: Questions to
In order to ensure that all educational experiences
are of the highest quality, district boards of education and school
administrators should consider the following questions as they
develop policies and procedures to implement Option Two. These
questions provide guidance for policy development; however, the
answers may vary from district to district.
1. What is the application process?
- When will applications be accepted
(e.g., rolling, by July 1)?
- Who submits the initial application?
Is a written application necessary? What should
be included on the application?
- If the application is for a group
of students, will each student be required to
complete a separate application?
- What procedures must be in place to
accommodate a student in grade 8 in a sending district
who wants to pursue Option Two upon enrollment
in a receiving high school? When transferring from a
private school to a 9-12 public high school? Will
the high school grant "credit" for work completed
prior to grade 9?
- If a student applies for an external
program, does the application require that the
parents/guardians hold the local school district
harmless for liability? Are parents/guardians informed
schools are not required to perform background
checks on external instructors?
- Who must approve the application?
Will all requests be approved at one board meeting?
- If an application is denied, can a
student or group of students reapply at a later
date? Can a student appeal a denial?
- Is there sufficient interest in this
activity to develop a new course offering that
is open to all students in the school?
- Can a new student enrolling from out-of-district
request Option Two credit for coursework completed
prior to enrolling in the current school (e.g.,
enrolling from out-of-state or country or from a private
2. How can we ensure that the proposed
program provides high quality instruction?
- What are the credentials of the teacher
or instructor? Is the person qualified to address
all of the aligned standards?
- How has the program been evaluated?
- What, if any, are past successes or
problems with the program?
- What do other schools or participants
say about the program? Do they recommend it?
- What is the programs duration?
Is the program seasonal? Does it align with
the marking period, semester, or school year? If the
not align with the regular school schedule,
how will the student be accommodated?
- What does the program cost? Will specialized
equipment or materials be required? Will the
student require transportation?
- Does the program align with the CCCS
and local objectives? How does the program
address knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors? How
the program promote higher level thinking,
real world application, and/or complex problem solving?
- Does the course require travel (e.g.,
student exchange)? Who will pay for the activities?
- Will the student require release time
in order to participate?
- Is the program offered in a safe environment,
conducive to learning?
- What, if any, child labor (e.g., working
papers) or safety laws (e.g., hazardous occupations
or conditions) must be adhered to in the program?
- If the student is participating in
worksite program, is there a signed agreement
between the school, student, business, and parent/guardian?
- What forms of assessment are planned?
Is assessment aligned with the program?
- Does this program unfairly favor or
advantage a particular student or group of
students? Would approval of this program negatively or
impact the student population?
- If the student is eligible for special
education services and has an IEP, is the proposed
program aligned with the special education
plan? Will the program require modifications?
3. How will student progress and the
completion of activities be documented?
- Will students receive a grade? Pass/fail?
Who will award the grade?
- How will student achievement be documented?
What kinds of progress reports will be required?
Who is responsible? Will a statement of assurances be
evidence of course completion?
- How will student "credit" be
determined for graduation? How will school counselors "mix" traditional
credit and Option Two coursework to determine
course placement and options?
- How will Option Two courses impact
a students grade point average and
honors status (e.g. valedictorian)?
- If a student cannot successfully complete
the alternative program, what happens? What
evidence of attendance will be required?
- Will students be expected to participate
in local assessments (e.g., final exams)?
Will the program support or interfere with student achievement
on the HSPA?
- How will the local district accommodate
students who have already completed Option
Two courses in another school district?
- If a student takes and passes a proficiency
exam prior to high school entrance, must
a high school accept the results of the exam in lieu
of credit? Can
a high school require the student to take
another course at a higher level before awarding credit?
- Will the use of Option Two impact
the students athletic eligibility now
or in college? (Go to www.ncaa.org for more
information on core course
- What happens if the student quits
or is no longer able to participate in the
alternative activity (e.g., an injury or illness, family
The department will work with the county
superintendents on an ongoing basis to identify programs
that implement Option Two. The attached table provides examples
of programs currently in place in New Jersey high schools.
New Jersey high school students must complete
a local program of study of not fewer than 110 credits in
courses designed to meet all of the Core Curriculum Content
Standards. The State Board of Education adopted regulations
that require all students to attain a set amount of course "credits" in
each of the core content areas. However, the 110 credit requirement
may be met in whole or in part by program completion, commonly
referred to as "Option Two." N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii provides
the regulatory framework for district boards of education
to adopt policies and procedures for the implementation of
Option Two. District boards should consider how the flexibility
afforded by the use of Option Two will provide students with
enriching, stimulating, and meaningful learning experiences
that enhance student achievement of the New Jersey Core Curriculum
Implementation Examples for Option Two (N.J.A.C.
||Multidisciplinary team approach
||At Bordentown High School, all
ninth grade students participate in a multidisciplinary course
that addresses health and physical education concepts and skills,
communication skills, and strategies for school success; a
performance project is required
|Jump Start Program
||Partnership to provide college courses
||At the Toms River High Schools,
junior or senior level students may enroll in college courses at
Ocean County College.
|Early College Admission
||Upon completion of grade 11, students
at the Toms River High Schools who have demonstrated
ability to pursue advanced academic study, may enroll in full-time
college degree programs in lieu of high school year; requires
recommendations, scores, and admission offer; tuition reimbursement
is available for students who rank in top 10% of their class;
|Community Action Program
||Senior students at the Toms River
High Schools may volunteer in elementary schools, pre-school
programs, and health-related fields three times per week
and receive 5-10 credits; some students will also participate
in a related education course at Ocean County College
|Interdisciplinary or Theme-Based
||In one configuration, a student
learns the content from two or more core curriculum content
areas during a single, generally lengthier class period.
|Cherry Hill High School East offers
a 10-credit English/World Civilizations Course.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School offers an astronomy
coursean integrated science course studying
outer space. As an integrated course it combines relevant
topics from physical and biological sciences.
The Union City Board of Education utilizes Project-Based
Learninga teaching and learning model that
focuses on central concepts and principles of a discipline,
involves students in meaningful problem-solving tasks,
and culminates in realistic, student-generated products.
|Dual Enrollment Program
||Students take college-level courses
on the high school campus, for which they receive both high
school credit (counting toward graduation) and college credits.
||At Dunellen High School,
students receive Middlesex County College credits.
Cherry Hill High School West students receive Camden
County College credits. Students pay a registration fee
to the college.
Phillipsburg High School students receive Warren
County Community College credits. College tuition is waived.
Clifton High School, Fair Lawn High School, Kearny
High School, and Lyndhurst High School students
receive credit from Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU).
Students receive FDU IDs and access to many university
resources. FDU requires $175.00 tuition per three-credit
Hunterdon Central Regional High School students
can receive six credits from Seton Hall University, in
addition to the high school credits they receive, for German
VI. Seton Hall University charges each student $360 for
participation in its Project Acceleration.
|On-Campus College Program
||Students take courses on the college
campus, for which they receive both college and high school
credit. In some districts, such courses taken at the college
count toward graduation but are not counted in class rank.
||Cherry Hill High Schools East
and West require prior approval to substitute college
courses for high school courses. District policy specifies
that such college courses will count toward graduation requirements
but will not be counted in class rank.
Dunellen High School students may enroll in Middlesex
County College courses. Students receive a discount on
the college tuition.
Fair Lawn High School students may enroll in Bergen
Community College courses. Senior class schedules are adjusted
to provide time for such experiences. Bergen Community
College offers these courses at a reduced tuition rate
of $286 per class.
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School students undertake
advanced work at Princeton University through a formal
interagency agreement. At present, students pursue mathematics
and science under this arrangement.
|International Baccalaureate Diploma
||An interdisciplinary course of study,
incorporating community service and a culminating personal
||Cherry Hill High School West
Linden High School
|World Language Exchange programs
||Southern Regional School District participates
in the German/American Partnership Program (GAPP) and a Japanese
||An option for earning course credit
off-campus via cable television, Internet, satellite classes,
correspondence courses, videotapes, or other means. By electronically
sharing resources, schools provide opportunities for student
learning which otherwise would not be possible. Configurations
include point-to-point sharing between schools, sharing between
schools and higher education, and electronic field trips.
||Verona High School students
participate in AP Calculus BC courses originating from Montclair
High School and in computer programming courses from University
High School in Newark.
Montclair High School students participate in courses originating
from Orange High School and University High School (Newark).
University High School students participate in art appreciation,
statistics, and probability courses originating from Essex County
|High School Level Courses Taken
Prior to Grade Nine
||Districts may utilize performance
or competency assessment to approve student completion of programs
aimed at meeting or exceeding the Core Curriculum Content Standards
at the secondary level, including those occurring all or in
part prior to a students high school enrollment.
||Cherry Hill High School West policy
specifies that high school level courses taken prior to grade
9 may be used to meet prerequisites for advancement in a particular
subject area. Such approved courses are listed separately on
a students high school transcript. Courses taken prior
to grade 9 are not included in GPA or class rank.
|Co-Curricular of Extra-Curricular
||Assignment of credit for participation
in activities all or some of which are outside of the regular
||Cumberland Regional High School awards
up to five credits each year for Marching Band/Concert Band
and for Concert Choir.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School awards 1-5 credits
for Concert Band, Jazz Band, and Concert Choir.