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Credit Recovery: A Valid Approach to Credit Accumulation or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

With ink on Regents Exams still wet Chancellor Klein announced 70% graduation rates in the 2007 small high school graduating cohort. The New York Times reported on the press conference pointing out the lower percentage of English Language Learners (aka ESL) and Special Education students in the graduating classes.

With cohorts of less than a hundred students, substantial grants from the Gates Foundation and “coaching/mentoring” from the intermediary organizations that the support the schools (i.e., New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly, International Partnership Foundation, etc.) one would hope that the schools are doing well. Whether these gains can be sustained when the grants and the intermediary organizations are no longer connected to the schools is the key question.

Unfortunately in his rush to herald success the Department is encouraging practices that require close scrutiny.

One of these practices is called “credit recovery.”

Let’s say a kid passes the first two unit tests and fails the next three tests, rather than failing the student the teacher gives the student an “incomplete.” In the summer the student takes a “unique” course: he completes a project that incorporates the three topics that he failed. The project is deemed satisfactory and the “incomplete” is changed to a passing grade.

This may be a totally satisfactory way to complete a course, and it may not. The School Progress Report “grades” schools on a metric – a key is credit accumulation – and the school “grade” is directly tied to the principal’s rating. In Empowerment the Network Leader is “graded” by the principal …

Is it possible that principals are “crossing the line”?

Is someone overseeing “unique” courses? Is “credit recovery” a valid process to make up failed material or a way to grant credits that student didn’t earn?

Unfortunately, I fear the DOE policy is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”



  • 1 Jackie Bennett
    · Jul 4, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    The “seat time” and “credit recovery” schemes perpetrated by Klein are part of an ongoing de-professionalization of teaching that undermines the very fabric of school culture. And, I’ll say what you are nice enough only to imply: – it is just a great way to cook the books at a time when schools are under enormous pressure to improve graduation rates.

    The vast majority of teachers work individually with struggling students. Within the context of our courses, we make special accommodations for students who need flexibility because they struggle academically or are in the middle of overwhelming problems in their lives. When a teacher makes a determination that a student has failed, it is not simply a matter of that student’s failure to meet some inflexible demands set by the teacher. It is for good reason. Reversing those grades based upon later work that may not even be done under the supervision of the same teacher is a travesty.

    Several months ago, I wrote to someone in State Ed’s Office of Assessment about these new credit schemes , and he explained how the law allows for local discretion in constituting credit so long as it is “exercised within the context of a school or district policy applied equally to all, without arbitrariness, malice, or caprice.”

    It is interesting to ask whether or not the current system meets that criteria, since the credits will vary from school to school. But what he said next, by way of editorial point was even more interesting:

    “…if extra work after the course ends can lead to a higher grade for kids who’ve failed the course, then aren’t all grades “Incomplete”? The kids with 90’s can get back in the ring — maybe right up until the day before commencement? — and do an independent project to raise their course grades to 100 or better, right?”

    I also asked the state official about another kind of situation: imagine a student who fails both the class and Regents, and then retakes the Regents without retaking the class. If the student passes the Regents, can the admin go back and give credit for the class? (In subjects like English, where the test is not tied to class content, this can be an especially egregious practice.) I think his answer is worth quoting in full:

    “Only if, as above, the course grade was brought above passing as a consequence of recalculation by the HS using the new and improved RE score in the same formula that was applied to all students who took the course. The basis for this is Commissioner’s Regulations, Part 100.5(a)(5)(v), which reads:
    “…passing the Regents assessment in any given subject shall not be construed as having earned a unit of credit in that subject unless the student also passes the course as offered in a registered high school or the student meets the requirements for credit by examination pursuant to section 100.5(d)(1) of this Title.”

    The official continues with some editorial: “What would be the purpose of arbitrarily making it harder for some students to pass the course than for others? Would the parents of the students who earned course grades of 90 the first time around be justified in going back and demanding that their kids’ scores be recalculated up to 110 because the kids who failed the course later had the RE score counted as 80% of their course grade instead of the published 20% ? Look at the effect that could have on their GPA and rank-in-class!”

    I think these are excellent points.

  • 2 Persam1197
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Credit recovery is a complete joke. It’s nothing more than DOE sanctioned “Can I do a project to pass since I didn’t do what I was supposed to before?

    In my school, we were to design a recovery course that was interesting and “fun.” The course did not have to have be aligned with the curriculum and attendance was not mandatory because the assumption was that the student had already had “seat time.”

    I had to pull my name from the hat because this is garbage designed to make the DOE look good but little else. One of the important life lessons we teach our students is to show up on time, do the work, learn, prove their knowledge, and pass assessments. I cannot think of any situation in life in which shortcuts and free passes are given to folks without “connections.” Our kids will leave the system believing that they too can master mediocrity.

    Shame on the DOE!

  • 3 xkaydet65
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Credit recovery in H.S. is matched by summer school and exit projects in M.S. and JHS.They send the same message. If you show up and work 170-180 days a year, conduct yourself in a civil manner, carry out as many of your responsibilities as you can, and achieve a 72, you are a sucker for you will be promoted or graduated to the same place as the child who recovered his creits, did his exit project, or experienced the low pressure of summer school. mitigated by air conditioning, , metro cards, and meals. And everybody out by 12:30.

  • 4 MichaelB
    · Jul 5, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    There needs to be a question on the DOE teacher survey about the integrity of the grading process.

    If the DOE won’t do it, the UFT should. Just as we set up a Grapevine, we can set up an anonymous online survey.