States Loosening 'Seat Time' Requirements
students know—not how much time they spend learning it
By Sean Cavanagh
Education Week
March 5, 2012

States have established an array of policies in recent years to free schools from having to award academic credits based on "seat time," with the goal of making it easier for struggling students to catch up, exceptional students to race ahead, and students facing geographic and scheduling barriers to take the courses they need.

Thirty-six states have adopted policies that allow districts or schools to provide credits based on students' proving proficiency in a subject, rather than the time they physically spend in a traditional classroom setting, according to the National Governors Association. One state, New Hampshire, has required high schools to assign credits based on competency, rather than seat time, while others have encouraged schools to do that or allowed them to apply for waivers from state policy to do so.

In addition to their desire to increase academic opportunities for students, state policymakers are eager to boost high school graduation rates by re-engaging struggling teenagers through online or alternative courses, and potentially putting them on the path to a two- or four-year college degree or career certification.

Merely "having a seat in a class doesn't guarantee you anything," said Jason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education. He and Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad, are asking state lawmakers to create a system that allows students to prove their ability in different subjects in a variety of ways—such as through tests, demonstrations of skills, and the completion of projects.
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell