Opening Statement



Sunday, 29 May 2011

What's This About Credit Rescue?

Perhaps I'm showing my age. As far as credit recovery goes, I just don`t get it. This isn't to insult  our colleagues who think it's a good idea. If you do, maybe you could write to help me understand why. At this time of year a lot of us are being asked, pressured or just told to give our students a list of their missing assignments to hand in before exams. They can still pass and get "sixteen by sixteen" credits; the new educational buzzword phrase. As an experienced professional, the whole notion just strikes me as plain wrong.

First, after we've all ready graded an assignment, a student can get another’s work, slap it together differently, and hand it in for a pass. Duh. Can’t the Ministry of Education or OISIE figure that out? What does this measure? Is this what passes for educational excellence these days? 

Secondly it's like collecting bottle caps to win a prize. Hand in enough missed assignments and you pass. Hooray! Excuse me, but whatever happened to pedagogy? We teach lesson A. We hand out an assignment, to help the students develop their skills and potential to learn lesson B. They then complete another assignment before proceeding to lesson C, and so on. By following such logical sequences and being prepared for class, the students have an opportunity to honestly and effectively master our course and earn a good grade for work well done. Doesn't that count anymore?

Let me reminisce about the so called "bad old days". I 'm sure many of you also remember back then. I often offered "credit recovery" on my own like many other teachers did too. It worked like this. Let's say I was teaching English. A student handed in an essay and failed. They came to me. I didn't chase after them. They would ask what went wrong and how they could do better. If they were earnest, I'd gladly give them a chance. I might suggest different ways they could try to improve the paper.

They had the opportunity to redo it over the weekend. If it was handed in promptly Monday morning, I would look it over, and probably give them a passing grade if a good effort had been made. It offered hope and guidance. It also required some initiative on the students’ behalf. Many students did show improvement over the course of the semester this way.

If it was what was once called a Basic or General class, at the end of the semester I'd often then give them a 50% final mark for effort, no real harm done, even if they otherwise would’ve failed. But with an academic class, well then, I wouldn't want to set them up for later failure at college or university. If they failed or didn’t do well, even with help, they would be told to change levels. There wasn't a whole lot of if ands or buts about it. If the students or their parents didn't get it, then the school would tell them too. No bumping up the marks or redoing the assignments to simply get a passing grade. Quite frankly they would of course be ill prepared for the next grade. If they insisted on repeating the course again and didn't pass then so be it. It was called the school of hard knocks.

Of course I would encourage my students in a positive way, for their own good, to try another course where they could meet with some real success. If they didn't then they suffered the logical consequence of failure, which under the circumstances wasn't a bad lesson to learn at all. Possibly it was even quite necessary.

As a high school student during the early 1970's, if you missed a dozen or so classes you just quite plain and simply had to repeat the course. You might under very rare circumstances be able to provide a doctors note. If you could still satisfactorily complete the work while you were away, you might be able to write and pass the final exam. More often than not, you just had to repeat the course. The Ministry still requires our courses to offer a set amount of instruction time. Is that not because it will reasonably take at least that much time to master the curriculum and skills? Or does that not count anymore either? It doesn’t really seem so. If you missed an assignment, then just hand it in by the end of the year. If you are away a lot, then just hand in a lot of assignments to pass. What gives?

There’s a whole new education mindset these day, and I don’t think it’s always for the better. Please correct me if I'm wrong. A lot of what is expected from our students today is just plain mediocre and misleading. They are being done a disservice. How does this current credit rescue nonsense prepare our students to succeed in the real world outside our school doors?

Would the school board allow you to hand in all your work and reports by the end of the year, if you missed the original deadlines? Would you then be evaluated on that without prejudice in your appraisal? What other jobs or professions would accept this either? None? Then how can anybody think it should be any different for the students whom it’s our duty to teach?

To me, it just doesn't make sense, period. It doesn’t matter whatever short term feel good qualities or hope and encouragement it might seem to provide. Handing out passing, let alone good or excellent grades shouldn’t be like handing out candy. Everybody doesn’t get one. With the new credit rescue policies I believe we are failing our students much more seriously than any bad grade in the past could have ever done. Alas! Sometimes I think the whole word is going crazy. Am I alone in feeling this way?

4 comments:

PHYLLIS DALGLEISH said...

You're not alone in thinking this way, I couldn't agree more. I've been teaching for 25 years and have seen standards get lower and lower over my entire career. It's hard to come up with ways to make getting a credit any easier. I think it does students a disservice not to have standards but those of us who believe in credit integrity are the ones being criticized.

David Chiarelli said...

Thanks for the Comment! We are also having a lively discussion about this on Twitter. Join in @ #davidchiarelli

David Chiarelli said...

The bottom line for academic standards kept being lowered over the course of my career until it it was hoped students might at least trip over them and "succeed". Now teachers are expected to push them over if they don't! Or its your fault. You didn't care or help.

Alas. We have been ill equipping the students for the real world where one needs to show up, apply yourself and work hard to succeed instead.

Ask admin if you, as a teacher, can just hand in everything last week of classes after everyone else or even do a makeup later. Guess what they will say? Why the double standard?

Quite frankly most of us aren't even free to openly discuss the issue and use our own professional judgement, as among the most highly trained teachers in the world. Its strictly become a political football to buy votes and make everyone think our schools are doing great, compared to all the other dubious world scores as determined by "experts" looking to make a name for themselves in administration. They make a mess then move on to bigger things leaving you the teacher with the mess to clean up.

I do not regret my career. On the whole there were many, many high points that were rewarding for my students and myself, but I am confident I got out and retired at a good time. The writing is clearly on the wall that school has often become a sad joke.
The dumbing down of our society is continuing full tilt ahead.

Of course, this is a free speech site. If you disagree,and/ or have another point of view please feel free to discuss here in the Comments. Or even write a guest blog for us!

Hope this helps!

Solidarity!

David C

Ms. Chievious said...

Credit Rescue, if implemented as intended, provides an opportunity to those students who are completely overwhelmed with personal medical issues like addictions, mental health, death/illness of a family member etc., to acquire credits in non core subject areas. Unfortunately,some Administrators/Guidance Councillors use it a catch all, which completely compromises the integrity of the program. I had a former Principal who placed one of his buddies in charge of "Credit Rescue" which translated to kids doing nothing and teacher doing less than nothing except granting credits like candy. Bottom line-if the Principal, who, as per the Ed Act has the final authority to grant credits, has no integrity, neither will the Credit Rescue Program. Don't punish kids who deserve a break because the adults in the building aren't implementing the program as they should be.

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