Diplomas on the cheap

Food, gas, overnights at the Mayflower hotel--all grow steadily pricier. Meanwhile, the New York City high school diploma is cheapened, and that city's oft-challenged reputation as a dogged pursuer of higher educational standards is again called into question. A recent New York Times article highlights abuses of a little-known practice called "credit recovery," through which students who lack the credits necessary to graduate may earn them via alternate routes. At one Bronx school, for instance, a program "lets students earn a year's worth of science credits by responding to 19 questions on 5 topics." One question asked, "What are some ways that you, as an individual, can help [the environment]?" A Manhattan principal called the practice "the dirty little secret of high schools," and a Harlem teacher boycotted his school's graduation ceremony to protest the fact that, as he put it, many students are "being pushed through the system regardless of whether they have done the work to earn their diploma." Maintaining a high standard for graduation has proved difficult for many states and districts, especially in an era when school leaders are pressured simultaneously to boost student achievement and cut the drop out rate. Big Apple Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has it right: "We do students no favors by giving them credit they haven't earned." Let's see if he acts on those unimpeachable words.

"Lacking Credits, Some Students Learn a Shortcut," by Elissa Gootman, New York Times, April 11, 2008

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