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Updated May 21, 2019
This school district outsourced many of its high school courses to an online program. But it’s not clear students are learning.
New research finds the approach does help students graduate — but raises big questions about whether it actually helps them learn.
October 29, 2015
As Shelby County Schools seeks to expand ‘credit recovery,’ board reluctantly approves Pearson contract
The company will get $225,000 next year to help 15,000 students make up failed classes under a credit recovery policy that the district is asking the board to revise.
where credit is (and isn't) due
August 5, 2015
Behind city’s latest credit-recovery controversy is a complicated history
Low-performing high schools, now under threat of being taken over by outside groups, are still under pressure to increase their four-year graduation rates.
not making the grade
July 8, 2015
Principal tapped by Bloomberg to turn around John Dewey HS yanked after probe
Dewey’s soaring graduation rates, which increased 13 points under Principal Kathleen Elvin, were bolstered by an illicit credit recovery program, a city investigation found.
May 13, 2014
City’s approach to assigning credits allows for fresh starts, but increases frustration
A high school teacher reflects on how offering credits at two points in the year leads to differences in student emotion and motivation.
September 24, 2013
Use of "credit recovery" in city schools varied widely, data show
City schools ranged widely in how often their students took a controversial fast track to making up failed classes, according to new Department of Education data. "Credit recovery” offers students the chance to make up failed classes without having to repeat the entire course, often through online assignments or packets of worksheets. The option was designed for rare occasions, but critics of the Bloomberg administration say pressure to boost graduation rates caused the practice to be abused. Education officials countered allegations of abuse by citing the fact that credit recovery accounted for just 1.7 percent of all credits earned citywide in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. But that figure masked the fact that many schools did not have any students earn credits through credit recovery, while dozens relied heavily on the practice, according to the new data, made available for the first time in response to Freedom of Information Law requests.
June 17, 2013
HS graduation rate fell in 2012, for the first time under Bloomberg
New York City's four-year graduation rate fell slightly last year, from 60.9 percent to 60.4 percent, State Education Commissioner John King announced this morning in Albany. King's announcement, to the Board of Regents during its monthly meeting, set the stage for a press conference that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott have called for this afternoon. The annual graduation rate announcement is typically a festive occasion for the mayor, who has staked his education legacy in large part on increased numbers of students finishing high school each year. But last year, when the city's graduation rate flattened (showing a 0.1 point decline) after several years of steady growth, Bloomberg acknowledged that tougher graduation requirements could put pressure on the city's graduation rate. Students who entered high school in 2008 were the first required to earn a Regents diploma by passing five Regents exams with a 65 or higher. The less rigorous local diploma option, which for years helped prop up the city’s overall graduation numbers, disappeared, a change that critics said would leave thousands of students at risk of dropping out.
June 11, 2012
Bloomberg praises 2011 grad data growth, but hedges on future
Bloomberg with Walcott and Nilda Gomez-Katz, one of four high school principals at the old Bushwick High School building. Mayor Bloomberg did his best to put a rosy spin on the newly-released graduation rates that showed New York City's progress last year has flattened for the first time in seven years. Stunted graduation numbers weren't a setback as much as they were an impressive achievement in the face of higher standards, he said at a press conference this afternoon. And better rates of improvement in other cities weren't an indication of New York City's failures, but a credit to what those school districts were doing right. "They're doing a great job and they should be congratulated," Bloomberg said, even though in past years he's used such comparisons to tout his own city's growth. "That doesn't mean we aren't doing a great job." But even Bloomberg grew sober when asked about future graduation rates. Beginning this year, all students who began high school in 2007 or after will not have the option to earn a less-demanding local diploma, which for years helped prop up the city's overall graduation numbers. "That'll make it tougher," the mayor said. The man to his left, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, quickly agreed.
March 19, 2012
With stricter credit recovery policy comes a push to do more
An impending crackdown on how students can make up failed classes has some schools scurrying to help students rack up missing credits this spring. Many schools allow students who are missing credits—either because they failed a class, or because circumstances kept them from attending or completing required work—to receiving course credit for completing extra assignments through a practice known as "credit recovery." The practice, which accounted for about 1.7 percent of credits earned last year, offers students the chance to pick up narrowly missed credits without having to repeat classes, but it has also been criticized for devaluing academic credits because the make-up assignments are often less in-depth than those required in the regular classes. Last month, following an audit that found errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools, the city announced that it would begin restricting credit recovery access to students, in part by capping the number of credits students may receive through credit recovery, limiting enrollment to students who attended at least two thirds of class they're making up, and allowing students to make up credits only in the months immediately after they fail a course. The new policies take effect July 1 — giving schools a four-month window to help students rack up credits before the restrictions kick in. Teachers and students at many schools said last week that they hadn't heard about the looming policy changes. But some of those who did said the news had motivated a credit recovery spree among students missing credits—a response Department of Education officials say is inappropriate. Students at a small school at the Lower East Side's Seward Park Campus, said administrators had individually told students who are missing credits that now is the time to finish credit recovery.
March 13, 2012
We ask: What has credit recovery looked like in your school?
Changes announced last month to rules about makeup work made less of a splash than the teacher ratings released the next day but…
February 24, 2012
Students say new high school policies will require extra support
Student activists call for a greater focus on college readiness in city schools during a rally today. For some city teachers and students, the big news this week wasn't the release of teachers' ratings but a slew of new policies meant to crack down on graduation rate inflation. The new policies, which follow an audit that found errors and evidence of possible cheating at dozens of schools, change the way high school exams will be graded and limit the number of failed courses students can make up without repeating the class. Today, high school students said tougher expectations are a good thing — as long as they are coupled with more support for schools. The students were holding a rally and panel discussion at New York University Friday afternoon to draw attention to a campaign, spearheaded by City Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Robert Jackson, and several advocacy groups including the Urban Youth Collaborative and the Coalition for Educational Justice. For years, students affiliated with those groups have been urging the city to fund "success centers" inside schools where teens could get help preparing for college. And in 2009, CEJ began calling attention to a potential "looming crisis" posed by the state's increasingly tough graduation standards — something a top Department of Education official told GothamSchools this week threatens to roll back graduation rates far more than the policy changes. The students I spoke to had not heard yet about new policies, which the department announced Thursday, and did not know how their schools might be affected. But one said some of the city's new policies could hurt school graduation rates in the short run by making it more difficult for students to make up credits for courses they failed.
February 23, 2012
City alters Regents grading, credit recovery policies after audit
The Department of Education is cracking down on graduation rate inflation, following an internal audit that uncovered errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools. The audits, conducted by the department's internal auditor, scrutinized data at 60 high schools that had posted unusual or striking results. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the schools in 2010, the audit found that 292 did not have the exam grades or course credits required under state regulations. At one school, Landmark High School, 35 students had graduated without earning all of the academic credits required for graduation. At another, Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, 19 students had gotten credits through "credit recovery" that the school could not prove complied with state requirements. At two schools, Fort Hamilton High School and Hillcrest High School, an examination of Regents exams uncovered problems in the scoring of multiple students' tests. Department officials said they had asked Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon to launch inquiries at nine schools based on issues raised during the audits. (Schools where investigations were already underway were excluded from the audit.) Students who graduated without sufficient credits won't have their diplomas revoked, officials said. And schools won't have their graduation rates revised to reflect the audited numbers, either, except potentially where the city found schools had purged students from their rolls without confirming that they had enrolled elsewhere. Instead, department officials are cracking down on loopholes in city and state regulations about how to graduate students. Among the major policy changes are revisions to Regents exam scoring procedures, new limitations on "credit recovery" options for students who fail courses, and an alteration to the way schools determine whether a student has met graduation requirements. The changes reflect a new understanding of the degree to which principals had become confused with — or, in some cases, ignorant of — graduation policies. They also reflect an unusual acknowledgment from the Department of Education that its strategies for delivering support to schools and holding them accountable are not always successful.
February 10, 2012
Muted response to Regents' call for credit recovery comments
New York State education officials kicked off a statewide information-gathering tour in Brooklyn on Wednesday about a controversial practice: credit recovery. Credit recovery involves a variety of alternative academic programs used in schools to offer students a way to make up credits for incomplete or failed courses. It has been lauded by city officials and principals, who have used it as a way to help both failing students and advanced students earn credits that were otherwise unavailable at schools to them. But critics in New York City have accused Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Education principals of abusing the policy to juke citywide graduation rates, a hallmark accomplishment of his administration. Last year, the city audited about 60 city high schools' data, including how many credits they issued through credit recovery practices, but has not yet released the results. The State Education Department formalized the policy in 2010 with a regulation that allows students to gain credits without meeting "seat time" or attendance requirements in limited circumstances. But Associate Commissioner Ken Slentz said on Wednesday that state officials had grown "concerned" that the policy was "not meeting its original intent." Testimony from two former teachers, and education expert, and anonymous letters from educators read by parent activist Leonie Haimson appeared to confirm Slentz's concerns.
December 2, 2011
As principal departs, investigation at Randolph stays behind
Friday was the last day of school for Henry Rubio, the principal of A. Philip Randolph High School, but he's leaving behind more than just memories. Two weeks ago, Rubio announced to his staff that he was resigning as principal after five years at the school to take a job with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. We reported that an open investigation into fraudulent credit accumulation at Randolph under his watch was closed. But it turns out that the information came to us - inaccurately - from a spokeswoman for the principal's union. An investigation into Rubio concluded on Thursday and found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, according to Chiara Coletti, a CSA spokeswoman. She said the union had waited until Rubio was cleared of suspicions before giving him the job, as a member of the union’s “supervisory support panel” that helps the Department of Education mentor principals. A prerequisite for that job, Coletti said, is that candidates must be “standing principals,” and the investigation had put Rubio’s status temporarily in jeopardy. Since then, we've confirmed that no investigations have been closed with the office that is probing the school, the Special Commissioner of Investigation. Today a SCI spokeswoman confirmed that an investigation is still very much open at the school, but declined to comment further on the case.
September 12, 2011
Global Studies bets 'transformation' funds on new tech, staff
School for Global Studies "master" teacher, Natasha Blakley, prepares for the start of school in the Brooklyn school's new computer lab, purchased with federal funds. To Joseph O’Brien, principal of Brooklyn's School for Global Studies, there is no clearer indication of how new federal funds have led to higher achievement than Room 326. The classroom-turned-computer lab, outfitted with 35 Apple computers purchased last winter, is being used by students to recover credits toward graduation and study languages online, and by parents who lack Internet access at home. In addition to two laptop carts and new smartboards for a dozen classrooms, the lab replaces the school’s once-meager technology offerings, which included aging classroom computers hampered by viruses and two broken smartboards. “For the first time, our students were able to have a dedicated room where they could use the computer on their own time, whether after school or on their lunch hour, with staffed personnel,” he said. Tasked with raising the school’s graduation rate when the Department of Education appointed him to run Global Studies last year, O’Brien sees the new lab as a main tool. He paid for the lab with $170,000 of the $890,000 in federal School Improvement Grants awarded to Global Studies because it landed on the state’s list of lowest-performing schools last year—requiring the city to overhaul it. For Global Studies and 10 other schools on the list, the city chose “transformation,” meaning they would receive new principals and nearly $2 million in School Improvement Grants over three years to buy extra supplies and support. The city is starting to overhaul another 33 schools this year under three improvement models. As the 6th through 12th-grade school enters its second year of transformation — bringing it a second infusion of cash — O’Brien said change is already being felt. “We are no longer the school that we once were,” he said. “This school is really becoming an oasis of learning.” Now he just has to convince families that that’s true.
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