‘Credit recovery’ is a cheat

‘Credit recovery’ — after-school classes for failing students — is raising graduation rates by lowering standards, writes Erich Martel, a social studies teacher in Washington, D.C., on Education Gadfly.

In D.C. schools, a student who flunks a class with 120 to 135 seat-time hours can make it up with an 82- to 92-hour hour credit-recovery “class.”  Students who need more teacher attention get less.

Rules ban homework.  All assignments are completed during class time.

During the past two school years, students enrolled in different subjects were assigned to one teacher and grouped in a single classroom. In some cases, non-instructional staff members, such as counselors, were assigned to “teach” CR classes. The clear expectation of school officials responsible for these assignments was that students would spend most of their time completing work sheets with little active teacher instruction.

Many students were simultaneously enrolled in two courses, even though one is the pre-requisite for the other, as in math, Spanish, and French. Some students, mainly ELL/ESOL, were enrolled in as many as three English courses at the same time. CR teachers reported a range of direct and indirect pressure by administrators to pass students enrolled in these courses despite failing grades, extensive absences, and late enrollment.

Credit recovery undercuts the work ethic, while giving students an inflated sense of achievement, Martel writes.

The program is expanding rapidly across the nation. Students get diplomas; administrators get higher graduation rates.  Community colleges get more remedial students.

About Joanne


  1. thurderchief 68 says:

    “Students get diplomas; administrators get higher graduation rates. Community colleges get more remedial students.” And those of us footing the bill for this kind of folly get the shaft!!

  2. bill eccleston says:

    This is exactly what they are doing right now at the infamous Central Falls, RI, high school. But are any journalists watching?

  3. Credit recovery undercuts the work ethic, while giving students an inflated sense of achievement, Martel writes.

    hahahahaha. Yeah, that’s what students who do credit recovery are getting–an inflated sense of achievement. They’re thinking they’re rilly rilly smart and learning all sorts of things. If they weren’t in credit recovery, they’d be doing so much better in real school.

    Credit recovery is an end run around stricter graduation requirements. It’s a paper trail allowing principals to brag they have a higher graduation rate, yes. It’s giving a high school diploma to students who never worked a day, yes.

    But it’s not preventing these kids from learning. It’s just giving them a useless high school diploma while keeping them out of classes in which equally low ability students with more motivation are trying to learn.

    So the question is, what should we do with students who have no abilities and no motivation and soak up time and teacher cycles from students with low abilities and some motivation?

    Principals aren’t allowed to kick them out and stop wasting money on them without taking a hit. So what difference does it make how they game the system? Until and unless society accepts that many students don’t want to be in school, the best thing to do with these kids is push them through as cheaply as possible, using up the least resources that could be better served with kids who are trying.

  4. Wow, cal. That sounds remarkably like a business model. All the shareholders are happy and costs have been cut.

  5. Don’t even get me started on this subject. Every single word in this article is exactly what is going on at high schools all over America. Every school year we have meetings where the administration preaches rigour and relevance and then flash forward a couple of months and students are being placed in credit recovery to help them “catch-up” and keep them in school.

    I once had a senior who couldn’t pass my algebra II class. He literally was so low that he could not solve a two-step equation. His parents were well-to-do members of our community and put pressure on the school to make sure this child earned a “reccommended” diploma. Long story short, he was pulled out of my class and put into credit recovery where he “earned” credit for algebra II in three short weeks!

  6. “Credit Recovery” is not designed to give students a second chance.

    It’s designed to pass students who are only slightly willing to do next to nothing.

    What kind of system would allow such a thing?

    A broken, absurd, contemptible system that should be burned to the ground.

  7. Instead of forcing students to do what they’re not very willing to do, why not figure out what they ARE willing to do, and hold them to some standards on that? What if it’s some version of voc-ed? what if it’s community service?

  8. EB: They want to hang out and smoke a lot of pot — and get the girls pregnant. What standards do you propose?

  9. We should try to meet the needs of all students in the best way we can.

    Some students, for one or many reasons, just can’t make it in a regular school.

    The problem is, alternative schools cost money. Worksheets and lies are a lot cheaper.

  10. Good point, Lighlly Seasoned. I guess what I’m getting at is that of all the things those particular kids want, analyzing literature and learning to do Algebra 2 are at the bottom of the list, whereas something that led to a job might be a bit higher on the list.

  11. First of all, I think Credit Recovery is a disgusting shame on Education.

    Second, you can thank society, not schools, for the credit recovery idiocy. Since our ability to gain funding, retain teachers, and use methods that are not boxed lesson plans are based on things like graduation rates, you’ll get idiotic credit recovery scenarios. Oh, and if you really want to change the system, then let us teachers actually fail students that decide to fail.

    Credit Recovery is more society’s doing than schools. I’ve had students almost never show up to school, fail, and make up the class online in our computer lab after a few hours. The kid learned nothing, but the pressure from parents and government to pass lazy kids is insane.

    Once again, society enjoys the hypocrisy of pointing fingers while insisting on low standards.

  12. I am always amazed at how many experts we have in education. People who haven’t worked with students in years, and have no idea what the long term effect of failure is on our society. We are talking ab out a high school diploma, not a degree frtom Stanford! These young adults still have to find their way to a job, good life and future. Forcing them to stay in high school and fail more classes isn’t the answer either. Maybe we should be talking about what happened in K-8?

  13. I guess we could just give everybody a diploma once they turn 18, one that has a big happy face on it along with the words, “You’re special!”

  14. I guess we could just give everybody a diploma once they turn 18, one that has a big happy face on it along with the words, ‘You’re special!’

    As part of the background color in Heinlein’s book “Friday,” the citizens of the future California Confederacy do pretty much just this 🙂 Well, minus the happy face.

    -Mark Roulo

  15. Jeff LeClair says:

    As an employee of a company that offers a credit recovery program, I’m amazed at the comments on this post. The credit recovery program I offer holds a student to mastery – 80% proficiency at the discreet objective level – simply put, if you don’t know the material, you don’t pass. Once you understand, comprehend and know the material, then you can move on. We’re still looking for the student who can cheat our program. I know of one program where students can click through the lessons, take the test, fail it, write down the answers to the test and then retake the test, knowing that they’ll see the exact same questions. Is that learning? No. That is the kind of program this blog is about and it’s an abomination to education. To lump all credit recovery programs under the umbrella of cheating is ignorance.
    I once took administrators from neighboring districts to view my program in action at another district and one of them asked a student, “How easy is this program?” The student replied, “I wish I would have stayed in class because this program is much harder.”
    Look at all the programs and companies who offer this sort of thing and everyone (including mine) has their pluses and minuses.
    So, before everyone jumps on my case (and I’m fully willing to take my lumps), there are a lot of issues in schools to say the least. Teacher burnout, student behaviors, greedy administrators and not the least of all, budgets. I heard a superintendent say, “We’re the new migrant worker. We go to a district and in 2 or 3 years, we cut the budget while fattening our wallets and then on to another district.” Sad, but true.
    Today, more schools are tasked with having to do more with less: teach more curriculum to more students in less time with less support. I speak to teachers daily and it is a thankless job – would any of us in the private sector care to deal with those students? Come on, we were students once.
    I know this is the point where everyone will talk about how teachers can have their summer’s off, they’re in at 7 and out at 3, that they have it easy, etc… walk a mile in their shoes is all I ask.
    My program does not crank out diplomas nor does it replace a teacher. In fact, the teacher is the crucial part. Are schools teaching in an antiquated manner? You betcha! Are there more students who seem to not care? Absolutely. Fundamentally, there are a lot off things wrong in education. Recovering credits (for whatever reason) should be about getting ahead in life and not just skating by.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, Joanne Jacobs, Chan Stroman, Jenny Rowland, Hot In Science and others. Hot In Science said: ‘Credit recovery’ is a cheat — Joanne Jacobs http://safe.mn/AKf […]

  2. […] high schools are putting failing students in quick ‘n easy “credit recovery” programs to boost graduation rates.  I fear more high school graduates with marginal academic […]