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.



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7 Responses to “Are Credit Rescue and Credit Recovery programs avenues for socially promoting high school students so they don’t drop out of school”

  1. jrt on June 13th, 2012 12:54 pm

    I think Credit Recovery does look good on paper. It can be beneficial for students. My personal opinion is that it is taken advantage of by students and parents. I know of students who did not care if they passed or failed a class. They have made the comment that Credit Recovery was easier and that they would not have to do much work.

  2. Mary Stevens on June 13th, 2012 1:10 pm

    I’m more negative than you. I hate these type of programs. I’ve been involved in PLATO, Credit Recovery and more. They have nothing to do with education; they are just devices to get kids a diploma, in a diploma mill school. We talk RIGOR, Rigor, rigor and we settle for this type of instruction – a joke. I have heard that our school will offer Virtual High School – wonder how that will work or if it will be any benifit to our kids?

  3. Elona Hartjes on June 13th, 2012 9:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Yes, it does seem than more often than not rigour is a casualty of Credit Recovery etc. programs where the focus is on finding a way to give kids credits when sometimes they haven’t really demonstrated they have earned a credit.

  4. Elona Hartjes on June 13th, 2012 9:54 pm

    Yes, I too have had students in Credit Recovery who really didn’t care if they passed or failed the class. It is really sad when these kids take advantage of the system in a negative way. Why has giving kids credits become more important than having kids earn credits. If you think about it, giving kids credits when they really haven’t earn the credits is disrespecting the kids and their teachers.

  5. Derek on February 8th, 2013 10:13 pm

    I used to teach credit recovery too, and I agree with your assertions here because my experience has led me to many of the same conclusions.

    When credit recovery first emerged as a student success strategy in our school, it was presented as a second chance for students who, for reasons that were essentially beyond their control, had failed a course, but then really deserved a second chance that the extended timelines of a credit recovery class would afford them. Back then our school adhered to the Ministry’s guidelines regarding which students should be offered a credit recovery opportunity. Our student success committee would apply a variety of criteria to determine which students should be admitted into a credit recovery class and which shouldn’t. We looked at attendance, marks, attitude and teacher recommendations actually carried some weight. Regrettably, the days of applying these criteria to identify and/or filter credit recovery candidates were short lived and are behind us.

    These days any student who fails a course is considered for credit recovery in our school – no eligibilty criteria are ever considered. The only thing a student needs to do to get into credit recovery is fail a class. They don’t even need to finish the course or make a legitimate attempt at passing the course. As a matter of fact, the more courses a student fails, the more likely they are to be granted admission into a credit recovery class. Clearly, this practice flies in the face of a student needing to be a self-motivated student to be considered for c.r.

    Credit recovery in our school has quickly devolved into a situation where the c.r. classes are dumping grounds and holding cells of sorts; it can be difficult to offer a student a full slate of courses once they’ve failed something because of things like scheduling conflicts and the need for prerequisites. This situation has turned credit recovery classes in our school into “catch alls” and dumping grounds. The c.r. classes catch all the students our administration hasn’t (or can’t) schedule programs for – the kids are just dumped into the c.r. classes regardless of whether they are willing to invest the time or effort that a second chance demands or requires.

    Shame, shame, shame. Many of these students need to appreciate the consequences of failure and the consequences of opting out. They cannot continue to be rewarded for their poor decision making or poor behaviour.

  6. Elona Hartjes on February 11th, 2013 9:13 am

    Thanking you for sharing your insights. I agree with you. Students do need to appreciate the consequences of failure and the consequences of opting out. How is CR preparing students for life after school?

  7. Elona Hartjes on February 12th, 2013 6:44 pm

    Derek, I just came across an article by Avi I. Minz (The Happy and Suffering Student? Rousseau’s Emile and the Path not Taken in Progressive Educational Thought)you might find interesting. Minz maintains that progressive education has taken a misstep in believing that educational pains are obstacles to learning and has denied students “meaningful challenges and educational experiences…(there is a) distinction between useful and useless or harmful suffering in education. Useful suffering is that which enables students to appreciate and endure the limits and vagaries of human condition; it is that which enables them to recognize and confront their errors and discomforts and to formulate constructive responses to them; it is that which can heighten students’ interest;it is that which enables people to recognize the suffering of others and motivates them to act on their behalf.
    Useless or dangerous suffering is the artificial and arbitrary domination, punishment, and coercion foisted upon children, suffering that neither facilitates learning nor cultivates just social relation.”(p. 265)

    I think that the education system is disrespectful of students when it denies students the opportunity to feel the pain and suffering of the natural consequences of losing marks when they do not submit work, do not prepare for tests, skip school, or plagiarize their work. Some students are motivated to do less and less because there is no pain and suffering from natural consequences of not meeting expectations in school. The education system does not let students suffer the natural consequences of their inaction because the system is concerned about students’ self-esteem.

    I know that when students just get passed on even when they do not earn their credits, their self esteem does suffer because they know they got their credit for doing nothing while other students earned their credits.

    I believe the education system should allow students to experience the pain of natural consequences of their actions but support them so they can make better choices for better consequences in the future.
    What do you think?

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