To close observers of the NYC system, the “credit recovery” story is old news. But this burgeoning phenomenon had received scant media attention until Elissa Gootman turned in this important NYT article linking credit recovery to the mounting pressure to increase graduation rates by any means necessary.
For the uninitiated, credit recovery involves “letting those who lack credits make them up by means other than retaking a class or attending traditional summer school.” This often involves completing a project which demonstrates “mastery” of the course. I’ve seen projects ranging from a packet of math problems to a 5-page “term paper,” and Gootman also identified similar patterns in NYC high schools:
In interviews, teachers or principals at more than a dozen schools said the programs ranged from five-day crunch sessions over school breaks, to interactive computer programs culminating in an online test, to independent study packets — and varied in quality.
Klein argues there’s no evidence that credit recovery has become more prevalent in recent years. But the incentives for schools to push students through (or to transfer them out before they count against the school) have grown with the adoption of NYC’s report cards and funder-driven graduation targets for the small schools.
When a simple system tries to regulate an issue as complex as graduation rates, you end up with unintended consequences. Hopefully Madame Secretary will consider NYC’s experience with credit recovery as she contemplates graduation rate measures and targets.
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