“How many credits is this course worth?” Many parents have asked me this question about various courses. It may seem fairly straightforward, but it’s a little more complicated than you might think. What makes up a credit or what counts as a credit varies from state to state and even from city to city. The same amount of work may count differently in New York City compared to the rest of New York state. So, let’s take a closer look at the world of homeschool credits for high school.
What Is a Credit?
The concept of a credit is based on the Carnegie unit, which refers to one daily hour of instruction five days a week for 24 weeks. If you do the math, that’s 120 hours of instruction. This time-based standard helps states and schools determine whether students are present in class often enough to learn and understand the material. In a brick-and-mortar school, the students’ success in a class is usually determined by both attendance and regular assessments. They earn credits by meeting the requirements.
How Do State Standards Affect Credits?
You probably know that most states require 180 days of instruction per school year, which means that most schools’ schedules include way more time than the minimum required for a Carnegie unit. Additionally, each state’s department of education may define the number of hours of instruction required for a credit differently. Larger cities with their own board of education may also have their own definitions. You can usually find out what you need to know about your state’s standards by looking up the graduation requirements set by your department of education.
For example, the New York State Education Department defines a single diploma credit as the completion of the required learning objectives in the class as well as attending 180 minutes of instruction per week (36 per day) through the school year. For graduation, students must have 22 credits total, many of which have to be for specific courses.
However, the New York City Department of Education requires 44 credits total. That doesn’t mean that the city requires twice the amount of work from its students. Rather, completing the required number of hours and assessments earns two credits instead of one. It amounts to the same thing, but the terms are different.
When you’re looking at these state standards, you have to keep in mind that they’re designed for public schools and classroom settings. The teacher must prepare for at least 180 days of instruction, but few students actually attend all of those days. Students have sick days, snow days, doctor’s visits, sports trips, and family emergencies. You know, life happens. Schools may have several buffer days for teacher workdays, weather-related shutdowns, or activity days, but a student’s absences will often overlap with the required days of instruction rather than the buffer days.
What Does This Mean for Your Homeschool Credits?
At the end of the day, homeschool credits aren’t about meeting your state’s regulations for homeschool families. They’re about what you’re going to put on your child’s transcript. You will want to record the credits your student has earned in a way that reflects either your state’s graduation requirements or the admission requirements of your student’s college of choice.
So, keeping records of what you do in your homeschool will be an important part of your daily routine. These records will help you know that you’re at least meeting the 120-hour criteria of a Carnegie unit. This is especially helpful if your state doesn’t have a required number of days of instruction. You can honestly say that your child has met the requirements for a credit even if you don’t have another standard to work toward.
For additional information regarding which subjects your state requires or how many days of instruction you must complete, check the Home School Legal Defense Association database of state homeschool regulations.
The question of how many credits a particular course is worth isn’t actually that helpful. What you should be asking is “Does this meet my state’s requirements?” And, for all current BJU Press courses—provided that you’re following the lesson plan overview or video lesson guide—yes, it does.