Middle-school students in some Ohio school districts are taking high-school courses in math, science and foreign language in preparation for taking Advanced Placement classes in high school.

Only those middle-school students who are considered ready for high-school work are eligible for the programs. However, some educators say that pushing students to take higher-level courses too early can lead to student burnout.

By the time 12-year-old Kallie Boren starts high school, she’ll have enough credits to be a sophomore.

She’s set to finish the seventh grade at Pickerington’s Lakeview Junior High School with two high-school credits, for Spanish I and honors Algebra I. She’ll earn four more next school year by taking Spanish 2, honors geometry, integrated science, theater and technology.

“I’d like to get ahead when I’m in high school,” she said. “I like the challenge.”

For the first time, Pickerington seventh-graders have been able to take classes that count toward their high-school diploma.

For years, eligible middle-school students — typically eighth-graders — have taken high-school foreign language, math and science classes, setting them up for Advanced Placement classes in high school.

Recently, local districts have added core and elective classes for middle-school students as education officials and lawmakers call on educators to expand college-level opportunities for high-school students.

But the approach isn’t for all middle-school students.

“We see this a lot of times in athletic programs,” said Ken Baker, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators. “You push things younger and younger, and these kids are exposed to more games and travel that, by the time they get to high school, they get burned out.

“The same thing happens in academics.”

Mark Raiff, executive director of academics in Olentangy schools, said burnout is to blame for falling participation in higher-level math classes at the district’s three high schools.

About 700 middle-school students currently take algebra, a similar number to previous years. Doing so allows them to enroll in a second Advanced Placement calculus course by senior year; but only 100 12th-graders actually do so.

Raiff said exposing middle-school students to higher-level math earlier should foster a passion for the subject, but students instead are tired of it by the time they complete enough credits to graduate.

That’s why administrators meet with parents to decide whether their children are prepared for a high-school workload early, he said.

The district offers high-school foreign-language and math classes only for eligible middle-school students.

Those who are determined to be ready for more rigorous material can take online courses for high-school credit.

In Hilliard’s middle schools, only eighth-graders are eligible to take classes for high-school credit, including science, math and foreign languages. Steve Estepp, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, said middle-school students at that level can better decide whether they want the challenge of a high-school course.

Hilliard added high-school-level art and music classes in middle school this year. Eighth-graders also will be able to take English and social-studies classes for high-school credit starting this fall.

In Pickerington, school leaders had some initial concerns about whether seventh-graders were academically ready and mature enough to take high-school courses.

But students thrived. They took the work seriously, a work ethic that rubbed off on the eighth-grade middle-school students, Lakeview Principal Jeff Clark said.

“It worked well for both parties — no question.”

Thank you to Charlie Boss of the Columbus Dispatch for the information provided in this article.