This course planning guide is designed to assist students in grades six through twelve, and their families, as they make educational decisions to become college and/or career ready. The Program of Studies provides the background needed to begin a career or enter an institution of higher learning. Elective courses will be offered if sufficient enrollment and staff are available.
Grade, Credit, Transcript, Class Rank and GPA
A student’s grade point average in FCPS is computed on a four-point scale using the final yearly average with computation beginning with high school credit-bearing courses and continuing through the end of the senior year.
Students who successfully complete high school courses, including credit-bearing courses at the middle school level, earn high school credit toward graduation. Quality points are awarded for some Dual-Enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students who successfully complete Dual-Enrolled/AP courses that qualify for a 0.05 increase in their GPA will receive it.
When a student repeats the same course he or she has already taken, the highest final grade will be used for class rank computation. Both grades will be shown on the transcript. Credit will be awarded on the transcript the first time the course is passed.
Class rank computation methods will be consistent throughout the school division. Grades and credits established by a transfer student from an accredited public school are included in the computation of that student’s GPA. Transfer students from an unaccredited homeschool or private school will receive a Pass or Fail grade on their transcript. These grades will not be included in the computation of a student’s GPA.
High School Honors/Advanced Placement Courses
Honors and Advanced Placement courses are designed for students who wish to accelerate their high school course of study. These courses are faster paced that require in-depth analysis and synthesis of subject matter. Students attempting an Honors or Advanced Placement course should have strong study habits. Please note that some courses have prerequisites that must be completed before enrolling in an Advanced Placement course. Students enrolled in an AP course will receive a 0.05 bump in their GPA regardless of whether or not they take the AP exam.
Advanced Placement Testing
Students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses may participate in the College Board Advanced Placement tests in an attempt to earn college credit from colleges and universities participating in the Advanced Placement program. There is no requirement that students who take an Advanced Placement course must take the College Board test in the given content area; however, college credit will not be awarded unless the student earns a qualifying score as determined by the institution of higher education. Low-income students may qualify for financial assistance. Students should see their counselor for more information.
Earning College Credit While in High School - Transferable Dual Enrollment Credit
Opportunities exist for students at our three high schools and Dowell J. Howard Center to earn transferable college credit for approved college-level courses. Through a partnership with both Laurel Ridge Community College (formerly Lord Fairfax Community College) and Shenandoah University, students may earn college credit while in high school. Dual Enrollment course offerings vary at each high school based on teacher credentials. Dual Enrollment courses are generally transferable to Virginia community colleges, as well as state universities. However, students should check with their prospective colleges and/or individual college programs to verify that the college will accept dual enrollment credit. These dual-enrolled courses offer college-level material. Students should expect a challenging curriculum and extensive assignments, mirroring those opportunities found in the respective college courses taken on campus. Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, students who successfully complete a dual-enrolled course will receive a 0.05 increase in their grade point average (GPA). Dual enrollment credit taken in our high schools is offered at a reduced cost.
Students who choose to take a course from an accredited college or university that is not part of the school division’s dual enrollment program will be allowed to have the transcript from the college or university included in their cumulative file. The grade the student earns will not be reflected in the student’s GPA for graduation purposes.
Students who are interested in taking courses at a community college or university level to satisfy a high school graduation requirement will need to consult with their school counselor and have approval that is documented by the principal and Director of Secondary Instruction. It is expected that students take courses at their home school rather than at a community college or university to meet graduation requirements.
Advanced Placement/Dual Enrollment Courses
- All students will receive a 0.05 bump in GPA regardless of whether or not they receive college credit.
- Students who do not pay for the college credit through Laurel Ridge Community College or Shenandoah University will not receive the college credit, but they will receive a bump in GPA.
Courses that are Dual Enrolled but not Advanced Placement Courses
- Pending dual enrollment certification of the teacher, students will receive a bump in GPA, but they will not receive college credit unless they pay tuition to either Laurel Ridge Community College or Shenandoah University.
Associate Degree Available Through Laurel Ridge Community College and FCPS
High school students may earn an Associate degree or Uniform Certificate of General Studies through Laurel Ridge Community College by taking dual enrollment and AP courses. College courses require a grade of “C” or higher for transferability, and a score of 3 or higher is required on most AP exams. Many courses may be taken through the student’s regular high school schedule, taught by Laurel Ridge credentialed faculty. For required courses not offered through FCPS, students may complete degree work through Laurel Ridge Community College. Please contact your school counselor or career coach for more information and review the Early College website.
Mountain Vista Governor’s School
Mountain Vista Governor’s School (MVGS) is a regional program for academically talented and highly motivated students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Science, mathematics, humanities, and research courses are uniquely integrated to provide a college-level, project-based learning environment.
Applications for admission to MVGS are available each year in January and are due to school counselors on the first school day in March.
This MVGS informational video provides an overview of the program from the student's perspective.
For further information about MVGS, visit the MVGS website. For questions related to the application process, please contact Dr. Judi Greathouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-662-3889, ext. 88222.
Dowell J. Howard Center
Dowell J. Howard Center (DJHC) is a center that contains a variety of secondary programs for students enrolled in middle school and high school in Frederick County Public Schools. Students at the high school level, who are enrolled in one of Frederick County Public Schools may apply, and if accepted explore specialized courses in career and technical education including Automotive Technology, Autobody Technology, Cybersecurity, Building Trades, and Certified Nursing Assistant. Students in these courses may earn industry-recognized certifications. Additionally, programs designed to work with students who respond more successfully to an alternative approach to instruction are also available for secondary students enrolled in Frederick County Public Schools.
Applications for admission into Dowell J. Howard Center’s specialized career and technical education courses are open in December each year.
Middle and high school students may take up to two courses free of charge through Virtual Virginia pending principal approval as long as the course(s) do not conflict with the student’s schedule in their home school. If a student elects to drop a course after payment has been made the parent will be responsible for reimbursing the school division for the full amount paid. Students who need the virtual class for graduation purposes, to satisfy requirements for an Advanced Studies diploma, or cannot fit a course into their regular schedule then the earned grade will be reflected on the transcript and count towards the grade-point average (GPA). Students must receive principal approval to enroll in a Virtual Virginia course that is also offered at the home school.
Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year students who choose to enroll full-time in Virtual Virginia will be required to unenroll in Frederick County Schools. Parents will be responsible for paying the tuition and any related expenses, e.g., computer, textbooks, etc. Students will not be eligible to take courses or participate in extracurricular activities offered by the school division.
All students are expected to take a minimum of seven credits required to meet the minimum standards necessary for graduation and attendance requirements of the state.
Students at the high school level may be permitted to carry additional courses provided their records indicate their ability to handle such courses, their presence in the class will not cause overcrowding, and the needs of the students requiring the courses have been fulfilled.
In certain circumstances, seniors may be allowed a reduced schedule, given they are enrolled in the required number of classes to graduate and receive permission from the principal. Seniors who qualify for a reduced schedule are encouraged to participate in FCPS Work-Based Learning program. Underclassmen are not permitted to take a reduced schedule.
Changes from one course to another will be made under the following circumstances only:
- Failure of a course that is a prerequisite for a scheduled course or a graduation requirement;
- Human or computer error;
- Grouping adjustments and/or balancing of class sizes;
- Recommendation of SSRT Committee or IEP Committee
Withdrawal from a Credit-Bearing Course
Any student enrolled in a credit-bearing course has up to three weeks after a course begins to withdraw from the course without receiving a failing grade (F); instead, students may withdraw from the course with a “W” and no grade will be awarded. Withdrawing within the first three weeks will not affect a student’s grade-point average (GPA), but after the first three weeks, the grade on the transcript will be reflected as an F. Consideration will be given if there are extenuating circumstances that necessitate a student to withdraw after the three-week window of time. Parents/adult students (18 yrs or older) are required to submit in writing a request for consideration to be given to waiving the F for extenuating circumstances to the principal. The principal and the Director of Secondary Instruction will make the final decision as to whether the class may be dropped without the student earning a failing grade.
Request to Omit Grade and Credit for High School Course taken in Middle School
Grades and credits earned in middle school for high school credit-bearing courses will count toward graduation credits and will be calculated in the high school GPA unless a “Request to Omit Grade and Credit for High School Course taken in Middle School” is filed under the provision of the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (8 VAC 20-131-90) and Frederick County Public Schools regulations.
Requests to omit grades and credit for a high school course taken in middle school must be submitted to the high school principal prior to the first student day of the student’s ninth-grade year. When parents do not opt to omit a grade and credit and the student proceeds to the next course in the sequence, parents may appeal to the high school principal during the first month of school that the student is returned to the prerequisite class if it becomes apparent that further preparation is needed for success in the more advanced course.
If the parent wishes, a student who took a high school credit class while enrolled as a middle school student may re-enroll in the course for which a grade and credit were deleted. If the student’s deleted final grade is an “A” or a “B” with a passing score on the accompanying SOL test (if applicable), he/she may proceed to the next level course without a grade or credit for a prerequisite class. Students with a deleted final grade lower than a “B” or without a passing score on the SOL test (if applicable) must re-enroll and successfully complete the prerequisite course.
Standards of Learning (SOL) Tests
The Virginia SOL tests are developed to measure student progress on the SOL objectives. The SOL tests are designed to assess knowledge as well as critical thinking skills. Students are assessed as they move through the educational program in each of the following core content areas: English, mathematics, science, and history/social science.
High school SOL tests are given in certain high school courses and are referred to as End-of-Course (EOC) tests. Students are administered the EOC tests in the spring of each year with opportunities for retesting in the summer and fall.
Middle School Students Are Administered the Following SOL Tests
*Once students meet their high school verified credit requirements in a subject, they no longer are required to take an SOL assessment in that subject.
High School Students Take Following EOC SOL Tests
Students who Pass the SOL but not the Class
Students who fail a course may receive a passing grade of a D- if they pass the corresponding SOL test. If a student fails Economics and Personal Finance he/she may receive a passing grade of a D- if they pass the end-of-course WISE test or industry certifications.
Sequential Electives Requirement
Students who will graduate with a standard or advanced studies diploma will be required to take at least two sequential electives that may include a concentration of courses selected from a variety of options. The options include an approved sequential combination of thirty-six-week elective courses.
Sequential electives may be in any discipline as long as the courses are not specifically required for graduation. An introductory course followed by another level of the same course of study in any content area may be used. CTE completer sequences may count as sequential electives.
Personal Finance Requirement
The Code of Virginia requires that all middle and high school students master objectives developed by the State Department of Education for economics education and financial literacy. Frederick County students meet this requirement by successfully completing a course in Economics and Personal Finance.
All FCPS high schools are members of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) and follow eligibility requirements mandated by the league. Please see your Coordinator of Student Activities for more information regarding eligibility. See the VHSL website for details. Students interested in college athletics should visit the NCAA Eligibility Center website.
Career Clusters and Pathways
Career Clusters help students investigate careers and design their courses of study to advance their career goals. For this reason, Virginia has adopted the nationally accepted structure of career clusters, career pathways and sample career specialties or occupations.
A Career Cluster is a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities. Within each career cluster, there are multiple career pathways that represent a common set of skills and knowledge, both academic and technical, necessary to pursue a full range of career opportunities within that pathway - ranging from entry level to management, including technical and professional career specialties. Based on the skills sets taught, all CTE courses are aligned with one or more career clusters and career pathways.
Academic and Career Plan
The Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (SOA) include provisions for each middle and high school student to have a personal learning plan and course of study that aligns with the student’s academic and career goals as well as college and career preparation programs and opportunities for postsecondary credit.
The Academic and Career Plan must include but is not limited to:
- A program of study for high school graduation and a postsecondary career pathway based on the student's academic and career interests.
- A review and update, if necessary, before the student enters the ninth and eleventh grades.
- The signatures of the student, the student's parent or guardian, and the school official(s) designated by the principal.
This course allows students to explore career options and investigate career opportunities. Students assess their roles in society, identify their roles as workers, analyze their personal assets, complete a basic exploration of career clusters, select career pathways or occupations for further study, and create an Academic and Career Plan based on their academic and career interests. This course also helps students identify and demonstrate the workplace skills that employers desire in their future employees.
The revisions to the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools or Standards of Accreditation (SOA), section 8VAC20-131-90, titled Instructional program in middle schools, states:
“Each middle school shall provide a course in career investigation in accordance with the provisions of 8VAC20-131-140. School divisions may seek alternate means of delivering the career investigation course content provided it is equivalent in content and rigor and provides the foundation for students to develop their academic and career plans.”
Work-Based Learning (WBL) comprises school-coordinated workplace experiences related to students’ career goals and/or interests, integrated with instruction, and performed in partnership with local businesses and organizations.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recognizes 12 WBL experiences. Virginia’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs include the following components:
- Classroom instruction—the essential component for students to master the academic and technical competencies, attitudes, and work ethic necessary for career success and lifelong learning
- Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) participation—organizations that provide experiences that reinforce and strengthen classroom learning and prepare students for individual responsibility, teamwork, and leadership in their chosen career pathways
- Work-Based Learning experiences—opportunities for students to apply and refine knowledge, attitudes, and skills through professionally coordinated and supervised work experience directly related to career goals
The WBL experience builds on the benefits of Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) participation and Work-Based Learning experiences by assisting students with the transition from the classroom to the workplace. Students enhance their knowledge, skills, and attitudes by participating in supervised, authentic experiences. WBL experiences are valuable because they help students develop careers beyond their secondary and postsecondary education. Students who participate in WBL experiences can often continue working for their placement companies after high school or even after college graduation. Furthermore, employers are increasingly seeking new hires who have WBL experiences and can perform well from day one.