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Credit Recovery Is a Scam

In what I consider to be a fraudulent attempt to boost graduation rates, increasing numbers of high schools are using a strategy called credit recovery ("Protestors eye bogus classes used to boost graduation rates," New York Daily News, Apr. 29). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 55 percent of school districts using distance learning said more than 60 percent of those classes consisted of credit recovery during the 2009-10 school year.  I have not seen more recent data.

Although districts have long offered students the opportunity to make up a failed course needed for graduation, credit recovery goes a step further by turning the process into a travesty. That's because it allows students to get credit for a course they have not truly earned.  For example, how can putting in only ten hours of work ever be equivalent to a full semester ("Lacking Credits, Some Students Learn a Shortcut," The New York Times, Apr. 11, 2008)?  Yet it's happening.

When I taught Expository Composition in high school, it took me many weeks to provide students with practice writing a simple argument, consisting of a thesis statement followed by supporting evidence. That didn't begin to cover rhetorical techniques. I can't believe that some districts demand only 10 hours to get credit for a similar course.

Yet credit recovery was entirely predictable.  When all that matters is posting impressive gains in the rate of graduation, districts are going to try to game the system.  A high-school diploma used to mean something.  But today, it's too often little more than merely putting in seat time, or even worse using credit recovery.  Is it any wonder employers complain that they can't find enough workers with minimal skills?  And aren't students terribly shortchanged?

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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