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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Here’s how schools inflate grad rates

Public school officials are “using fraudulent methods to inflate graduation rates,” writes Bernard Gassaway in Education Week. He saw it happen as a New York City teacher, principal and superintendent of alternative schools and programs.

“Credit recovery,” which may include “blended learning, virtual learning, after-school programs, summer school, weekend school, and night school,” enables students to make up credits quickly, without repeating classes they’ve failed, writes Gassaway.

I experienced the worst of this practice when I became principal of New York City’s Boys and Girls High School in 2009. One student was told by his teacher to complete about five handouts to make up for a summer school art course. Instead of attending class, that student was allowed to participate in a basketball tournament in Las Vegas. (I denied the student credit and eliminated this abusive practice.)

School officials may reclassify struggling students as disabled so they can graduate without meeting normal requirements, writes Gassaway. Parents are encouraged to request a “504 plan,” which may allow more time on exams, having the exam read aloud and a lower passing score.

If that doesn’t work, students are pushed to transfer to alternative schools, so their failure will ruin some other school’s statistics.

Slate looked at “the new diploma mills” in The Big Shortcut.

Credit recovery’s flaws can be fixed, argues Monique Darrisaw-Akil, assistant superintendent of secondary education at Brentwood Union Free School District, in New York.

In Los Angeles Unified, which has used credit recovery to boost graduation rates, 70 percent of graduates enroll in two- and four-year colleges, but only 25 percent earn a degree within six years, a new study concludes.

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