Credit Recovery Lets Students Off Easy, Critics Say

William Robert, an 18-year-student who attended Transit Tech High School, earned credit for courses that he initially failed within just days of graduation in June. Using a computer software program, he took a multiple choice test covering U.S history and English composition, he said. Robert was allowed to do this in the comfort of his own home, and on his own time.

“Credit recovery was an efficient way to get me back on track and catch up with my school work as well as my peers,” Robert said, “If it wasn’t for the convenience of it, I would probably have had to take the whole entire class over and have graduated late.”

Credit Recovery is variety of processes that the Department of Education approves in which a student can earn credit for a class he or she failed initially. There are many ways to re-earn a credit, like summer school, extra assignments or a simple online test.

But there has been much controversy surrounding credit recovery—specifically the online programs that allow students to make up a failed class, which they can begin during any week of the school year. Once enrolled, they are on their own to complete the tests online, according to students, whenever and wherever they want.

The quality, rigor and fairness of online learning are suspected, especially for students who choose the easy way out. Many students who have never failed a class say they are displeased by how easy it is to earn credit for a course online.

“The fact that I had to sit through eight months of my English class, take notes, do projects, while half my peers just sat there doing nothing and took a test at the end of the year on a computer and got the same credit is just pathetic,” said Sara Wong, a 16-year-old senior.

Randy Zabala, 18, a recent graduate of Murry Bergtraum High School, took six credit recovery courses this past June before he could receive his diploma. He said he was “slacking off” in his classes and didn’t think of the future consequences until graduation came around.

An assistant principle or guidance counselor has to register a student for credit recovery, providing a log-in name and password. The student is then free to start the tests, Zabala said.

The credit recovery website Zabala used is a basic testing site. While logged in, the student is not restricted from opening any other programs or files such as the Internet or Microsoft Word. There also is no time limit for the tests.

“I didn’t have to take the class over again, I wanted to graduate on time so I just took the tests to get them over with,” Randy said. “But I honestly believe I would have learned more if I focused in class the first time around, I was only focused on finishing the tests,” said Zabala.

A current teacher Murry Bergtraum High School, who asked to remain anonymous, says credit recovery should only be given to students who deserve a second chance and have worked hard throughout the year, but could not meet the standards.

Many students also agree with teachers who oppose the ease of credit recovery eligibility.

“I believe that under certain conditions it is okay for a student to be permitted to make up their work,” said Gabriel Mojica, 17, a senior at Brooklyn Latin High School. “But with these systems in place, there will be people that abuse it, and with that I believe that it’s unfair for certain people to graduate without putting in the same effort as me.”

In February an audit done by city officials in high schools revealed a lot of cheating and improper usage of credit recovery. Since then, Department of Education officials created new policies restricting credit recovery eligibility—to be used only when there is a dire need or when students are working hard but need extra time to demonstrate understanding.

A spokesman from the DOE, Matthew Mattenthal, said the department would root out schools that abuse credit recovery once the new policy takes effect.

“The letter and spirit of our new policy are clear, and we will be aggressively monitoring schools to make sure it is appropriately followed,” he said.

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