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Credit by Demonstrated Mastery

In 2013, the NC State Board of Education (SBE) approved a policy titled "Course for Credit" GCS‐M‐001.13.  Within this SBE policy are guidelines for offering Credit by Demonstrated Mastery (CDM) to North Carolina public education high school students and middle school students eligible to receive high school course credit.  CDM is the process by which the Mooresville Graded School District employs a body of evidence to award a student credit in a particular course without requiring the student to complete traditional classroom instruction for a certain amount of seat time. Open the tabs below for information we believe students and parents will find helpful regarding Credit by Demonstrated Mastery.  Student and parents should carefully review this information related to the CDM process to determine if this option best meets the needs of the individual student.

General Guidelines and Information

The NC State Board of Education recently passed a policy allowing eligible high school and middle school students to earn high school course credit without having to actually take the course in the traditional manner. This process is called Credit By Demonstrated Mastery.

Credit By Demonstrated Mastery – the process by which a student earns high school course credit by scoring at the mastery level on multiple assessments designed to gauge the student’s understanding and ability to apply the concepts of the high school course without having to meet the traditional seat-time requirement. While all middle and high school students are eligible for the CDM process, it may not be the best option for all students to attempt to earn course credit.

A Student demonstrates course mastery through a multi-phase assessment process.

  • Phase I– a student must score at the mastery level on the specific course’s final exam. Per State Board policy re-testing on Phase I is not permitted. If the student meets the Phase I requirement, then he/she moves to Phase II of the assessment process.
    • EOC Tests
      • Math I 
      • Math 3 
      • Biology > 261 (scale score)
      • English II > (Delayed until July 2020) *Not available
    • CTE Courses
      • > 93 score on the CTE Post-Assessment
    • NCFE Courses
      • > 90 score on the NC Final Exam
    • Non-EOC/State-Created Assessment Courses
      • > 94 score on the MGSD Final Exam
  • Phase II – a student must score at the mastery level on an application project specific to the course. A course-specific review team scores the project to determine if it meets the mastery level requirement. Phase II projects can include oral interviews, a demonstration of lab skills, written reports, electronic presentations, or other similar-type assignments or combinations of the above examples. For some CTE courses an industry certification might serve as the Phase II assessment.

For information on specific course standards, please visit the NC Department of Public Instruction website (www.dpi.state.nc.us) and look under the “K-12 Curriculum” tab. For information on local course content not included on the NC Department of Public Instruction website, please contact your school counselor.

General Points about CDM:

  1. CDM courses count towards a student’s graduation requirements and are noted on the student’s high school transcript.
  2. If a student unsuccessfully attempts to earn course credit through the CDM process, no record of that unsuccessful attempt is included on the student’s transcript. A student may only attempt CDM for a particular course one time. Multiple attempts are not permitted.
  3. CDM courses do NOT count towards a student’s GPA and carry no quality points or course level distinction (Honors, Advanced, etc.). Only “regular” level courses are eligible for CDM credit.
  4. All middle and high school students can attempt to earn course credit through the CDM process.
    • Middle school students (current 7th graders) can earn credit for high school courses offered at Mooresville Middle School – (Math I and Spanish I)
    • High school students (and current 8th graders) can earn credit for any high school courses offered at Mooresville High School/NF Woods that are not exempt from the CDM process.
  1. The following courses are exempt from the CDM process (not an all-inclusive list):
    • CTE work-based courses (internships, apprenticeships, etc.)
    • CTE courses with clinical settings (example: Early Childhood I and II)
    • CTE Advanced Studies courses, Pilot Courses, and Courses in Field Test
    • All AP, Pre-AP, NJROTC, Performing Arts, PE, ESL, Occupational Course of Study, English IV, and Public Speaking courses.
    • A more detailed list of exempt courses can be found on the district website.
  1. In order to earn credit through the CDM process for a particular course a student must have already earned credit for any courses that are required prerequisites for the CDM course.
  2. The CDM option will be offered once a year (January-February) in compliance with state board policy.
  3. CDM is designed to award course credit to students who demonstrate “mastery” of the course content and not simply “proficiency.” Therefore, the assessment score requirements are set at high levels. 

Timeline and Important Dates:

  • Deadline to submit CDM applications is Friday – December 20, 2019. Applications should be submitted to your school counselor.
  • Phase I Assessment window is January 7 - 17, 2020.
  • Phase II Assessment window is February 3 - March 16, 2020.
  • Final results from the spring CDM process shared with applicants – April 2020.

Students and parents seriously considering the CDM option should meet with their school counselor to further discuss the process, the courses in question, and the long-term impact that earning course credit through the CDM process may have on the student’s high school and post-secondary plans.


When a student and family are working through the CDM process, it is critical that they consider the long-term implications associated with earning course credit(s) at an accelerated rate.  Students and parents should meet with a school counselor to discuss these long-term implications.  It is critical to discuss all aspects of a student’s development, including academic, cognitive and social/emotional development, when CDM is being considered.  This will ensure that students/families are able to make an informed decision about participating in the CDM process.  It is the responsibility of the entire CDM team to counsel students/ families; not just one person. 

Below are common long-term issues to discuss and consider with your students/families who are interested in CDM:

Advanced Courses through Grade 12

Discuss current options available for advanced curriculum and instruction.  Discuss CDM as well as other possible pathways for advanced learning through grade 12.  Review how programs such as high school courses in middle school, AP/IB/Honors courses, CCP opportunities, and whole-grade acceleration may also support a student’s needs.   If a child does indeed subject accelerate with CDM or through other means, create a long-term plan to ensure the student, family and school are all working together and are aware of future opportunities.  The availability of advanced courses may be limited for students who successfully complete the CDM process in multiple courses.

Athletic/Extra-Curricular Activities

CDM can potentially impact a student’s eligibility in athletic and other extra-curricular activities.  It is important that the CDM team discuss these possible implications.  Because the CDM process is a relatively new process, some external organizations do not have concrete policies in place at this time.  Organizations such as the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should be contacted to verify eligibility implications for students considering the CDM option. Discussions surrounding how earning CDM may impact a student’s participation in these school activities are important.

GPA and Quality Points

CDM courses will not earn grades or quality points towards GPA.  Credit for CDM courses will be granted to meet high school graduation requirements.  This may be a concern for some students and families; however, CDM should be pursued when a student truly wants to benefit from a more challenging learning experience and move towards more advanced coursework.  Students may earn CDM for all standard-level high school courses in grades 9-12 and those high school courses offered in middle school.

High School Diploma Endorsements

Discuss the criteria for High School Diploma Endorsements (SBE, GCS-L-007), Career, College and Academic Scholars.  Walk through the CDM implications for interested Diploma Endorsements to ensure appropriate coursework is completed.  For example:  If a student desires to work towards the NC Academic Scholars Endorsement and achieves CDM for a standard-level course instead of enrolling in an honors-level course, develop a plan to meet the criteria of the honors-level or above course criteria needed to attain the NC Academic Scholars Endorsement.

Opportunity for Early Graduation

The CDM process may open an opportunity for completing high school graduation requirements (state and local) early.  Discussions concerning post-graduation options that meet the student needs are important.  Walk through examples of the implications on courses required for graduation and intended High School Diploma Endorsements (SBE, GCS-L-007) if a student earns CDM.  CDM may help prevent some students from leaving high school to pursue other options before graduating.


Do districts have to offer CDM?

Yes. Per State Board of Education policy, all LEAs must offer the opportunity for students to earn CDM for high school courses by the end of 2014-15.

Is a credit earned through the CDM policy intended to be “different” than a credit earned in the traditional manner (completing the course)?

No. Schools and districts shall assess students and evaluate artifacts based upon the same standards that are applied to students earning course credit in the traditional sense. The achievement levels required to earn CDM through a two-phase assessment already reflect a more rigorous expectation of students who want to earn credit in this manner than those of students who complete the course with the traditional seat-time.

Who is eligible to request an opportunity to earn credit by demonstrating mastery?

All students in North Carolina Public Schools for high school courses in grades 9-12 and high school courses offered in grades 6-8 in middle school, based on LEA availability.

Is there a limit to the number of courses for which a student may earn credit using the CDM policy?

No. Students may earn credit using CDM for as many courses as they wish and districts may not impose local limitations. However, students may only make one attempt per course. Students who are unsuccessful after one attempt must register for and complete the course in the traditional manner to receive credit.

May students earn CDM credit for honors courses?

It depends. CDM is only available for standard-level courses and inherently honors courses. CDM credits will be indicated on the transcript as CDM (similar to a ‘pass’) and therefore do not earn a specific grade or calculate into a student’s grade point average. Honors level courses that are not inherently honors are not available for CDM. In either case, a student only earns credit and does not receive grades or an extra quality-point.

Can the school or district deny a student the opportunity to attempt to earn CDM credit?

No. DPI encourages LEAs to advise parents and families of the opportunities and discuss possible benefits and challenges. However, all students must be awarded the opportunity to earn CDM.

May a student earn the CPR credit through CDM?

No. CPR is part of the Healthful Living requirement and NC State Board of Education policy specifically excludes required Healthful Living courses from CDM.

Are Charter Schools required to offer the CDM process?

No. Charter Schools are not required to participate but may decide to offer students the opportunity to earn course credit by demonstrated mastery.

Does CDM replace differentiation in meeting the learning needs of students?

No. CDM is not a replacement for differentiated services to meet the learning needs of students. CDM is in fact a way to differentiate and personalize learning based on individual student needs of content replacement. CDM does not replace the typical accelerated pathways of learning compacted curriculum by groups of advanced students, which are quite common in many LEAs.

What measures are in place to ensure consistency between LEAs across the state with the CDM process?

State Board of Education policy GCS-M-001 Course for Credit, Section 8, specifies required parameters. Additionally, NCDPI has developed CDM Guidelines and a CDM Toolkit for LEAs to use to develop and implement the local CDM process. As always, the SBE respects an individual LEA’s context and needs, thus the CDM policy does allow local decisions among the CDM framework. The CDM Guidelines specify additional requirements of the policy as well as components that are determined by the local school district.

May a student receive credit through CDM for a course not offered at their school?

No. Students can only opt to use the CDM process for courses taught within the school district.

May students earn credit by demonstrated mastery for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Courses?

Yes, with the exception of specific courses excluded by SBE policy (work-based learning courses such as co-ops, internships and apprenticeships; courses that have a clinical setting as a requirement such as ProStart, Early Childhood Education I/II and Nursing Fundamentals; Advanced Studies courses). For CTE courses, an industry credential may be accepted as the required artifact component. Students will still be expected to complete the post-assessment, if one is available, or a teacher made exam if the state does not provide a post-assessment. If the student earns credit, the post-assessment score would be reported in the technical attainment performance measure.

When a student earns credit by demonstrated mastery for a course, what should schools use to replace the course in the student’s schedule?

Generally, students should replace the course with the next course in the sequence, i.e. a student using CDM to earn a Math I credit should schedule Math II in its place. High school students might also use CDM credit to create space in their schedule that can be filled with a community college course available through Career & College Promise or other advanced courses, such AP and IB.

Can students graduate early based upon credits earned through this policy?

Yes. CDM credits work like traditional credits towards graduation. DPI recommends that early graduation decisions be made through deep discussion between families, students, and appropriate educational staff.

If a student chooses to earn credit by demonstrated mastery for an EOC course, will the student have to take that EOC for the course they passed through CDM?

Yes. Students attempting to earn a CDM credit for a course with an EOC, must take the EOC as the Phase 1 assessment component of the CDM attempt. If the attempt is successful, the score will be banked for appropriate use.

Because classroom situations (science labs, conversation in world languages, etc.) cannot be replicated on a standardized assessment, how should these situations be assessed?

Districts and schools may choose to require, as part of Phase II artifact assessment, student performance tasks that replicate these situations. For example, for world languages, the school may require a student to demonstrate conversational ability as part of earning the CDM credit as part of the Phase 2 assessment of the CDM process.

Are credits earned through this policy accepted by outside organizations such as the NCHSAA, NCCCS, UNC-GA, and NCAA?

Each organization handles CDM within its own parameters. It is important that the student and parent discuss the impact that CDM will have with these organizations with your school counselor and a representative from the organization.

Can students participating in an on-going course decide to earn CDM in the middle of the course?

No. The CDM policy is being phased in beginning with students who wish to accelerate without enrolling in a course and to attempt CDM prior to taking a course.

How does the CDM policy and its implementation impact quality points and a student’s grade point average (GPA)?

CDM credits are awarded as CDM in the gradebook, essentially like a “pass”, and will appear as such on the student’s transcript. No course grade is received and the course is NOT included in the GPA calculation. Also, no honors credit is awarded through the CDM process – only regular course credit.

If students transfer between LEAs, how will the school/district know if the student has gone through the CDM process?

As of date, there are plans to ensure CDM will be apparent on the official transcript

In a sequence of courses, such as English I, II, III, IV, could a student theoretically receive credit for all four courses?

Yes, but not all at once. A student may attempt to earn CDM for all of the courses in a sequence, one at a time. For example, for a student in grade 9, who has NOT taken English I, II or III, may NOT attempt to earn CDM for English IV and then subsequently earn credit for the other English I-III. A student must CDM for the next course in the content sequence. If a student did earn CDM for all four courses through the multi-phase assessments over time, this indicates a clear need for a personalized learning plan.

Who provides the assessments students will use to meet the Phase I assessment of foundational knowledge and progress to the artifact stage?

For EOC courses, the EOC will be given during an early testing window to provide the information needed for the Phase I assessment. For non-EOC courses, LEAs will determine the appropriate examination to use. School districts may decide to aggregate all the tests in the district for a course and either choose one or build one for purposes of CDM. Districts may also decide that the school CDM team will determine the assessment to be used for CDM purposes. With the exception of EOC courses, DPI does not currently require all tests or exams to be the same for student purposes. DPI expects all teachers and principals to administer tests in a professional manner that adequately tests students on the relevant course standards.

Can students potentially stay at home and graduate?

No. CDM policy does not relieve schools, parents or students of the requirement that students attend school until age 16.

Could CDM be used to accelerate students that know content, are very bright but are at risk?

Yes. CDM may be used for any student who would benefit from earning CDM and is able to meet the requirements. CDM may support a pathway towards graduation that was not available before.

Can CDM replace current differentiated pathways for advanced students, such as AIG students who are curriculum compacting Grade 6, 7, 8 Math in two years to access Math 1 in Grade 8?

No. CDM should not replace current compacted pathways for groups of students. CDM should not be an additional requirement to determine who will work at a faster rate within the classroom. CDM is meant for individual students who need content replacement and subject acceleration clearly, without any learning of the content in the school setting.


The courses offered through Mooresville High School can be accessed via the link below and are eligible for the Credit By Demonstrated Mastery unless otherwise noted in the “Excluded Courses” list at the end of the document.

Click here to access the MHS Course Offerings.

CDM Student and Family Application

Credit by Demonstrated Mastery Student and Family Application
First page of the PDF file: CDM-Application

CDM Process Chart

Credit by Demonstrated Mastery Process Chart
First page of the PDF file: CDM-Process_Chart-2019docx