School boards in Ontario have been spending tons of money on various alternative student success programs for the last 5 years or so to try to increase the number of students who graduate from high school. I read recently that these programs increased the high school graduation rate by 5% from 70% to 75%. I don’t know whether to be impressed or not.
The Ministry of Education funds alternative programs such as Credit Recovery, Credit Rescue and Counting On You to try to improve student success. When these programs first came out, I enthusiastically volunteered to teach them. After all, I’m an advocate for students who are academically at risk, and these programs were supposed to help students succeed in school. I was optimistic that these programs would meet the needs of students who are academically at risk and enable them to become more successful in earn the credits they need for graduation. I attended countless meetings and numerous PD sessions where I was learned teaching strategies to help students who were academically at risk and would be enrolled in these alternative programs. I wish I could say that Credit Recovery, Credit Rescue and Counting on You made a huge difference to student success. After teaching these programs, all I could think of was that I put in all this time and effort to improve my teaching practice and the Ministry of Education spent all that money for what! Now, if you feel differently about these programs, please, please share your insights. I am sharing my insights here.
There are at least two problems with Credit Recovery, Credit Rescue, and Counting On You programs. First, when I used to teach Credit Recovery, Credit Rescue and Counting On You courses, I found many students didn’t take these classes seriously. Some students would do a bit of work and then they would be given the credit by the student success committee because after all we know that students need to earn sixteen credits by the time they are sixteen or they are likely to drop out before graduation. I couldn’t support that practice. The thinking behind granting credits to students who really haven’t earned the credits is if students fail subjects in grade nine and ten, they’ll drop out of school; if they don’t fail subjects in grade nine and ten, they won’t get disillusioned with schools and will stay in school until they graduated. I’ve had students tell me they don’t care if they fail a subject because they can take the failed subject in Credit Recovery and pass it there. They believe it’s easier and less work to do the subject in Credit Recovery.
I’ve even thought these alternative programs are just an avenue for quietly socially promoting high school students to the next grade. I can’t tell you how many teachers I know are disillusioned with Credit Recovery and Credit Rescue programs! Giving students credits in grades 9 and 10 when they haven’t really earned them sets the students up for failure in grades 10 and 11. That’s not fair to students. That’s not fair to teachers either.The cynical part of me thinks it sure looks good on paper this year when all those students who are academically at risk recover all those credits in the alternative programs. Next year ? Next year can take care of itself. I can’t take that kind of thinking.
The second problem with Credit Rescue and Credit Recovery programs is students need to be self-motivated learners to best benefit from these programs. Guess what? Surprise, surprise many students who are academically at risk are not self-motivated learners when it comes to school subjects. When I pointed out this fact to an administrator, I was told to make the unmotivated learners into self-motivated learners. Really?
If you’ve been involved in teaching these alternative programs and feel more positive about them than I do, please share your your insights. I want these alternative programs to be more than an avenue for social promotion for those students who are disconnected from school.