In the News: The New Diploma Mills

Slate is publishing a series of articles called “The Big Shortcut” about the increasing use of online credit recovery courses to help struggling students come up with enough credits to graduate from high school.

The first article, “The New Diploma Mills,” by Zoe Kirsch, describes how one school district came to rely on online credit recovery to boost its graduation rate.

What has happened in Gadsden shows how the push to rank schools based on measures like graduation rates—codified by the No Child Left Behind Act and still very much a fact of life in American public education—has transformed the country’s approach to secondary education, as scores of districts have outsourced core instruction to computers and downgraded the role of the traditional teacher. It also offers a glimpse into what that shift means for the students who are increasingly dependent on online courses to help prepare them for college and the workforce. Spoiler: The view from the ground suggests that many online credit recovery courses are subpar substitutes for traditional classroom instruction.

When James and superintendents across the nation embraced online credit recovery, they were responding, justifiably, to a daunting demand to boost graduation rates—one that their chosen solution has since helped meet.

But in doing so, they’ve created a new need: ensuring that diplomas earned partially in virtual classrooms aren’t also virtually meaningless.

The Slate articles are by fellows of the Teacher Project, where Sarah Carr is editor. Carr wrote”Credit Recovery Hits the Mainstream: Accountability lags for online options,” for the Summer 2014 issue of Education Next

– Education Next



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