....many districts are devising ways to raise their graduation rates that have nothing to do with thinking and learning. A prime suspect is credit recovery. I became suspicious when I first learned about credit recovery several years ago. That is when I discovered that some high schools were allowing students who had failed a course to obtain full credit by submitting an essay or a project that was written without any oversight or attending a workshop for several days.
It turns out that the academic fraud goes even deeper than I suspected.
......I saw course credit awarded for "courses" that may be completed in as little as three hours. Three hours of test-taking to get credit for a full semester or even a year! I saw assessments that consisted exclusively of simplistic multiple-choice or true-false questions. I saw responses of dubious value that were "graded" by machines. The level of difficulty of these exams is shockingly low.
But this fraud works. It is profitable. It is a win-win: The student gets credit, the corporation makes money, the school raises its graduation rate, the city leaders celebrate, and the media reports the good news. And the graduation rate means nothing, and the students get an empty "education."
......This is academic fraud. These students are not getting an education. They are going through an exercise to pretend that they got an education so that they can graduate. The district will boast that its graduation rate is going up and up. Media figures will say that "education reform" is working. Big-name officials will exchange high-fives. And many thousands of young people will get a diploma that signifies nothing.
Big national online education companies are trying to capitalize on the interest in credit recovery. Plato, Pearson, Apex and Kaplan all are competing for a share of this burgeoning market, and they charge anywhere from $175 to $1,200 per student per credit.
At stake are multimillion-dollar contracts with large urban districts like Houston and New York City. Plato alone has a two-year, $4.2-million contract with New York City schools, according to city data. Districts have defended such expenditures by saying credit recovery programs are a bargain compared to the costs associated with students who drop out of school.
The self-paced classes represent one of the fastest growing segments of the $2 billion digital learning market for elementary and secondary students. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia allow students to take classes, including credit recovery, online, says Susan Patrick, president of the Virginia-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNacol).
She estimates that at least 250,000 students are taking credit-recovery classes online.
Gregg Levin, vice president of Aventa Learning, which supplies credit-recovery classes to 31 cities, said the company's revenues have grown more than eightfold in the last two school years.
Other providers include education business giants Pearson and Kaplan, which operates as a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co. Karl Gustafson, Pearson's digital learning vice president, predicts subsidiary NovaNet will see double-digit enrollment growth for the coming year.
Plato Learning, which was recently purchased by Chicago-based private-equity firm Thoma Bravo for $143 million, served twice as many students in 2010 as in 2009, says Mary Schneider, director of marketing. The majority are in credit-recovery classes. Former Plato chairman and CEO John Murray values the online credit-recovery business at $500 million. Murray is now chairman and CEO of AdvancePath Academics, a Virginia provider of alternative education solutions for at-risk high school students. Like iNacol's Patrick, he estimates 250,000 students are enrolled in online credit-recovery classes.
A student who earns a GED is reported as a “completer”, not a graduate and
not a dropout. In order for a district to count a student as a GED “completer”
and not a dropout, the district must have evidence. If evidence is not provided,
the student will count as a dropout
I have some real reservations about online learning -- the same objections that I have to homeschooling -- that there just isn't enough diversity of thought.
Alternative schools, or programs like the YABC and Transfer Schools in NYC, seem like better solutions than in-school GED tracks because they provide more comprehensive resources and initiatives to address the multitude of problems, both in school and outside of school, these students may be struggling with.
The single biggest factor behind the sky-high dropout rate? Oregon's largest school district shuffles struggling students by the hundreds into a network of low-profile, mostly unaccountable alternative schools. There, out of sight of their former teachers, principals and classmates, at least 80 percent drop out.
That disconnect between the district's nine big high schools and the fate of students who falter and leave sabotages a fix. Because the most challenging students founder off-site -- while nearly 90 percent of those who stay get a diploma -- the big high schools are blind to the need for improvement. The illusion of success keeps them from adopting practices that districts with similar students use to achieve far higher graduation rates.
So alternative schools aren't a fix at all.
On a national level, the alternative schools that are part of the public school system, rather than being privately run
Boards of Cooperative Education Services are withholding tens of millions of taxpayer dollars at a time when school districts are making unprecedented staffing cuts, according to a new audit by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The audit of six BOCES across the state found that they had $79 million in unauthorized or overfunded reserve funds.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/State-audit-BOCES-hefty-rainy-day-funds-hurt-578091.php#ixzz1yj65mR5z
The audit found the BOCES collectively held $26.3 million in eight reserves that the organizations were not authorized to establish. Another $52.7 million was held in 19 reserves that BOCES could not document a need for by means of liability calculations or plans for use.
The audit said BOCES failed to inform participating school districts as to why the funds were needed or what they would be used for.
“The board and BOCES officials have created a work environment where there is an inappropriate blending of employees’ public responsibilities and their private business interests,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wrote. His auditors found that the private and public work hours of the BOCES administrators could not be distinguished.
Auditors cited the case of Matthew Fletcher, BOCES’ assistant superintendent for labor negotiations, who worked out a barter arrangement with the district. In exchange for Fletcher providing legal services to the district at no charge, BOCES allowed him to represent school districts for his private law practice out of his BOCES office, the audit said. Fletcher makes $152,527 a year in his BOCES job.