Earlier this week, a blogger at The Chancellor's New Clothes took aim at Credit Recovery classes, where students who have failed classes can "recover" those credits by completing makeup assignments over the course of a few days. The teacher writes:
[Students] are earning credit in a course that they failed because they deserved to fail. And they will be making it up in 9 hours.It looks like this teacher is not alone in asking these questions. In today's Times, Elissa Gootman and Sharona Coutts write that educators citywide are concerned about the Credit Recovery option and that the State Education Department is investigating whether the short classes are in fact legal, since "seat time" is one criterion it sets, along with subject mastery, for earning credits.
So what are we telling our students? What are we telling those students who decide that coming to class or doing work is not important? What are we telling those students who work hard every day for their grades and their credit?
Gootman and Coutts collected anecdotes and evidence of Credit Recovery classes from dozens of schools around the city. At Wadleigh in Harlem, a student who had to write three essays to get credit for a course he rarely attended said, “I’m grateful for it, but it also just seems kind of, you know, outrageous. ... There’s no way three essays can possibly cover a semester of work.” At Franklin K. Lane in Brooklyn, posters advertised, “If you failed a class, don’t despair ... turnaround your 55 into a 65 in 6 weeks!!! Ask your teacher for details!!!"
Klein is on the defensive in the article, saying that these anecdotes (plus others) don't add up to cause for concern that the city is juking its graduation statistics. He says there is "no basis to suggest that improper credit recovery has affected graduation rates" — the DOE doesn't keep statistics on the subject.
What of the Wadleigh principal who allowed the farcical classes and whose Credit Recovery guidelines are now the subject of state investigation? She's the city's first executive principal, given the reins of a troubled high school in February along with a $25,000 bonus for taking on the assignment. She told the Times the Credit Recovery work packets were "just as rigorous as courses they would have taken sitting in the classroom every day with a teacher, or even more rigorous.” Sounds like Wadleigh is truly a model for other high schools around the city, right? And could the DOE really not find anyone for the executive principal position who wasn't under investigation for promoting rules that skirted state law?
I have visited lots of schools and I think there are good things happening in many of the city's high schools. But when I read an article like this one, I wonder whether all of Joel Klein's reforms are only building a house of cards.