Gift Wrapped Credits & Diplomas

A while back I had a student, Davy, reach the final week of his final semester in high school, and he had a 40% in my senior Mythology course while maintaining an attendance rate of 60% (and I think a blood-alcohol level of 2.0 most of the semester). I wouldn’t budge on giving “extra credit” to Davy as requested by the parents and the principal.

Instead of asking “what can Davy do to pass the course?” I was asked “what extra credit will you give Davy so he can pass?” I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t feel supported, and I definitely didn’t feel that the integrity of the course was being upheld. The principal placed the responsibility of Davy’s success on my shoulders instead of Davy’s. Still, I did offer one option: Davy passes the final with a C or better–showing that he learned the material–and I would pass him with a D-. Davy and his parents declined.

The solution was credit retrieval, which was at that time an online packet printed, completed, and sent in for the senior English credit. However, the packet contained only 30 multiple choice questions and a paragraph response to Of Mice and Men, a novella we teach in the freshman year. Davy finished this in an afternoon, got his semester credit, and graduated later that week.

I was appalled! I was even asked to assist him!

Apparently, I’m not the only one viewing this as a problem. A New York school is having the same issues. Whether the program for retrieval is online or on paper, I see a frightening trend to award credits much too easily.

My district eliminated courses taught by teachers during the summer to help students gain credits. We now only offer online credit retrieval with courses not aligned to our curriculum. The only courses taught by living people in a classroom are designed to help students pass the state test, but only students who barely missed the cut can take the classes. It’s a numbers game.

Also, my district now has teachers supervise credit retrieval students working online during the school day. They help students navigate sites completing a semester of coursework in as little as four weeks in an 18 week term, and these courses are not aligned and do not force students to meet our standards or pass our course requirements. When these students re-enter the regular sequence of courses, their failure rate is high. Of course, this means more online credit retrieval. Ugh!

What happens in your school?

3 thoughts on “Gift Wrapped Credits & Diplomas

  1. Mystery Teacher

    That is awful! It is like the university students who demand A’s on their report cards because they paid for the class.
    What are they teaching this boy except that you can get away with anything? I would have (and have) said no. I am giving him the grade he earned. He worked very hard earning that grade by missing class, not turning in assignments and being irresponsible. I feel he should have the grade he earned.

  2. drpezz Post author

    That one was frustrating. Plus, I think this lowers the (perceived) value of the diploma itself. Since the principal and counselor can give alternates, I said my peace and have to leave it there. With no control I just have to move on past it no matter how upset I felt at the time.

  3. Linda F

    I’m of 2 mind on this one. On one hand, the way these credit retrieval options are, in practice, is a joke. They diminish the value of the grade, and make a mockery of those who came to class and worked.

    On the other hand, IF properly done, they could be an option for that student who is on the verge of passing, but falls just barely short. In my state, other than the regularly attending student, who just barely misses the cut-off for passing (by less than 4 points), it isn’t available. Knowing this, teachers generally make sure that a student on the edge falls to one side or another (if they are falling short, they don’t curve the grade). That’s because “credit recovery”, as it’s termed in SC, is the responsibility of the course teacher – more work in the first weeks of vacation, no extra pay.



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