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Over the past few days, the New York Post (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who hates public schools and loves charter schools) has been flogging a scandal. The Post published a story by a young woman who said she got a high school diploma from a New York City public high school when she should have been failed. She hated school, she skipped classes, she should never have been allowed to graduate. Then the Post “discovered” that many students were graduating by taking “credit recovery” online classes, where they could make up for a failed course in a few weeks. In other words, the soaring graduation rates of which the Bloomberg administration boasted, are fake.
But the Post didn’t want to blame Bloomberg, whom they regularly hailed for expanding charters and cracking down on the public schools. They wanted to blame Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom they frequently ridicule as a hapless fool, and his schools chancellor, Carmen Farina.
Here is the sordid story, told by Perdidostreetschool blogger. The story is told by Harris Lirtzman, former Director of Risk Management for the New York City Retirement Systems in the NYC Comptroller’s Office from 1996-2002 and former Deputy State Comptroller for Administration from 2003-2007. Lirtzman was an untenured teacher in the Bronx from 2009-2012 and was pressured to pass unqualified students to boost the high school graduation rate to at least 70%. That was the target.
Credit recovery became widely accepted during the Bloomberg era as a way to raise graduation rates. The New York Post applauded Bloomberg’s reforms, especially charter schools, but they ignored the use of credit recovery to inflate the graduation rate. Many critics–such as Leonie Haimson–complained about credit recovery, but they were ignored by the Department of Education and the media. In 2011, she testified about credit recovery and other means of playing with data to make the graduation rate go higher. The New York Post didn’t report her testimony or show any subsequent interest in credit recovery. What the Post–or the New York Times– should do now is an in-depth investigation of credit recovery. When is it valid, when is it not? How many students rely on simple online courses to make up for semester-long or year-long courses that they failed? Which firms are profiting by supplying this quick fix? Some might justify credit recovery by saying that it is better for the student to have a high school diploma that was obtained through credit recovery than to be a dropout. If so, let’s have that discussion.