Exceptional Placement


Secondary Mathematics Specialist (6-12)
Tyler Baxter

What is Exceptional Placement?

Exceptional Placement provides an additional acceleration option for students who are ready to skip Common Core (CC) 7/8 and begin middle school in Common Core (CC) 8/Algebra 1. Historically, approximately 1.5% of ISD students qualify for Exceptional Placement each year.

Who is eligible to test for Exceptional Placement?

There are two groups of students who are eligible to take the Exceptional Placement test. More information will be provided to each of these groups in the spring.

Readiness Criteria

  • Since CC6 math is taught in the 5th grade MERLIN program, 5th grade MERLIN students will take the CC 7/8 Math Mastery Assessment test in their classrooms each spring.
  • Non-MERLIN students interested in exceptional placement will have the opportunity to take the CC 7/8 Math Mastery Assessment to qualify for Exceptional Placement. Testing will take place in the spring. The district will notify 5th grade students and families in the spring regarding testing dates and locations.

What are the criteria to qualify for Exceptional Placement?

  • Exceptional placement is not a self-select option in the Issaquah School District.
  • Eligible students must demonstrate sufficient mastery of CC 7/8 concepts and skills on a district-administered assessment.
  • Once a student has qualified for Exceptional Placement, parents make the final determination of whether or not to accept that placement. Further information will be provided to families of students who qualify for Exceptional Placement to help inform this decision.

Is Exceptional Placement right for your?

There are several factors for you to consider as you make this decision.

  • Learning loss: Skipping multiple math courses is not recommended for most students. Mathematical skills and thinking take time and repeated practice to develop. Furthermore, the emergency shift to remote learning in March 2020 and continued adjustments in response to COVID in 2020-21 negatively impacted learning for many students. While teachers will address learning loss for students on standard math pathways, they cannot be expected to provide the same support for the very small number of exceptional pathway students.
  • Pass rate: Historically, only about 1.5% of students pass the Exceptional Placement test. There is a 90-minute time limit for testing in order to make sure students not only know the material, but have procedural fluency.
  • Social considerations: As an 8th grader, your student will be placed in an Algebra 2 classroom with 9th – 12th graders. There are likely to be no other 8th graders in the class. This could cause some degree of social discomfort.
  • Math graduation requirements: District Policy requires 3 years of High School math taken while in High School in grades 9-12. A student’s middle school grades in Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 do not qualify for the three years of high school math graduation requirement.
  • Transportation to high school in 8th grade: Successful completion of CC 8/Algebra 1 and CC Geometry at the middle school means that you must provide transportation to the nearest high school for CC Algebra 2 for the entire 8th grade year.
  • Course schedule in 8th grade: Taking CC Algebra 2 during the 8th grade year will have implications for your child’s middle school course schedule. ISD high schools do not follow the same bell schedule as the middle schools. On some days classes meet for up to 2 hours and on other days they do not meet at all. You will need to work with the middle school counselor to coordinate schedules to minimize impact on your child’s other courses at the middle school. 
  • Implications for high school coursework: By taking CC 7/8 in 6th grade, our child is already on a highly accelerated path that would allow them to reach the highest level of math that we offer in our high schools. Colleges do not like students to opt out of math in their senior year, so you should consider if this extra acceleration is really a benefit.
    • Skyline High School coursework: If your child is planning to pursue an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma at Skyline High School, they will have to find an alternate math course (AP Statistics is recommended) in 9th grade as students are not allowed to enter the IB math pathway until grade 10.


You can sign up for Exceptional Placement for 2021-22 here through August 4th.