Hudson ‘Fresh-Starts’ Credit Program
A Proven Middle School Promotion Model
Developed by the Staff of Hudson J.H.S., Hudson, New York
Imagine a junior high school where:
• Credit conversations are a commonplace occurrence among 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
• All classes count for credit and students eagerly monitor credit totals at the end of each marking period.
• Promotion requirements are so demanding that those same students must earn a minimum of 74% of available credits in order to move on to the next grade.
• Academic success is rewarded at 10 week intervals instead of the traditional 10 month waiting period.
• A policy provides struggling students with a clean slate and a fresh academic start — every credit period.
• Consistent, year-round student effort develops the work habits needed for high school success.
You don’t have to imagine it — It’s happening right now in the Hudson City School District, located in Columbia County, New York.
Amid the commotion and controversy swirling around the implementation of the Common Core standards and the related testing, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at Hudson JHS quietly experienced an engaging, innovative, and game-changing approach to grade level promotion. Seven years ago, the staff at Hudson JHS has implemented a program that has since transformed the school climate, dramatically improved student attitudes and efforts in their classrooms, and produced a quantum leap forward in terms of preparing 8th graders for the rigors of the 22 credit, NYS high school graduation requirement.
Prior to the 2011 - 2012 school year, students at Hudson JHS simply did not have to work that hard to move on to high school. As guidance counselor Rosalie Cornell says, “Our former 'Pass-3' promotion policy literally defined ‘low expectations’; the bar was on the ground. At the absolute minimum, students were able to move on by passing only one core subject during the school year, and then passing two, six-week summer school classes. Teachers were also required to give a minimum first quarter grade of 50, regardless of student attendance, effort, or achievement. Unfortunately, it was impossible to prevent students from finding out just how little effort we required, or to prevent them from giving up in February because it was mathematically impossible for them to pass for the year. We routinely sent students into high school with inadequate work habits and promoted them with zero understanding of the academic demands of the New York State 22 credit graduation requirement.”
After watching too many 9th graders struggle to earn credits, the staff at Hudson JHS decided to change what was clearly a failed policy. In the spring of 2011, teachers and administrators at Hudson JHS developed a plan modeled after the New York State high school credit system — but with an important twist. In September 2011 we implemented the plan that has since changed the old ‘path-of-least-resistance’ into one of the most demanding middle level promotion policies in New York State.
Junior high principal Derek Reardon describes just how and why their idea was developed: “We started off with a simple goal. We wanted a promotion policy that made all classes count for credit, just like high school. We wanted it to be simple, concrete, more challenging, and most of all, teachable. We wanted to create a policy that trained students how to successfully navigate the 22 credit high school graduation requirement - before they got there. We knew that for this idea to work, for it to be teachable, that we would have to award credits long before the school year ended. Awarding credits every 10 weeks is the key feature; we wanted short term credit goals to help students stay focused and motivated. In putting this fairly radical policy into place, we’ve experienced nearly unanimous support from teachers, administrators, and parents. We realize there are no magic bullets, but after seven years of implementation, we wouldn’t dream of going back to our old policy that was essentially a free ride for students.”
Guidance counselor Rosalie Cornell sums it all up: “Students have responded big time. They buy into it because the rationale makes sense to them, the credit requirements are demanding but doable, and the rewards [credits] are tangible — and timely. We no longer see marginal students quit in January because they were mathematically eliminated from passing a course, and we no longer see successful students coasting in the fourth marking period on a 90 plus average. This program has exceeded even our wildest expectations; in fact, the policy is working so well that we are considering ramping up the credit requirements for next year. Our students have demonstrated that when the stakes are high enough and the goal seems attainable, they will rise to the occasion”
The following is a summary of Hudson’s “Fresh-Start Credit Program” — a grade level promotion policy for middle level students:
-All classes count for credit, validating core academics and special area classes.
-All final exams or projects count for credit.
-A grade of 65+ to earn credit.
-The time-frame for success is only 10 weeks; credits are earned at the end of each marking period.
- No yearly average applied to promotion; quarterly grades stand alone.
-The “Circle-50” 1st quarter grading policy is eliminated
-Eighth graders must earn 24 credits (Max:32.5) for end of year promotion to high school
-Summer school qualification is a 20 credit minimum
-Students with a grade of 59 – 64 qualify for ‘credit recovery’ at teacher discretion
-Credit requirements can be customized to best fit a school’s overall demographic
-It is free! Easily implemented, no additional teacher demands and at no cost to a district
-Traditional rewards such as honor rolls and Jr. National Honor Society are still in place for high academic achievers.
Contact: Rick Bobrick, ‘Fresh-Starts’ program director (and grade 8 science teacher) at, firstname.lastname@example.org