What gives? More kids are graduating, but fewer really mastered high school skills

Online credit recovery courses are raising graduation rates and failing students, writes Jeremy Noonan, a science teacher who runs Citizens for Excellence in Public Schools.

In October, President Obama announced that the national high school graduation rate had reached an all-time high in 2015. Yet that same year, the percentage of high school seniors ready for college-level reading and math declined to 37 percent. In other words, as graduation rates rise, other metrics of student achievement are falling, raising questions about how schools are getting more students to graduate.

In most school districts, students who’ve failed courses can make up the credits quickly via online credit-recover (OCR) courses, writes Noonan. “Passage rates don’t match achievement data.”

In Georgia, 90 percent of OCR students earned credit, but only 10 percent tested as proficient on state exams, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Noonan worked for a Douglas County, Georgia school district that raised its graduation rate — but not student achievement. As an OCR classroom manager, he was told to ensure that students earned at least 80 percent on multiple-choice quizzes and tests by giving them as many tries as they needed. The questions and answer choices were repeated, in the same order.

In addition, teachers provided “answer checks,” writes Noonan.

When students finished the first attempt on a quiz or test, they call upon the teacher for a “check.” He or she pulls up the student’s answers, reviews them, and informs the student which questions are incorrect. The student then changes his or her answers before submitting the assessment for a grade.

Most students didn’t pay attention to the lessons, writes Noonan. They knew they could guess their way to a passing score.

As Douglas County’s graduation rate rose, so did the percentage of graduates who required college remediation.

 

This post originally appeared at joannejacobs.com

Photo courtesy of the Atlantic Journal-Constitution

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Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne was born in Chicago and named after her grandfather, Joe Jacobs, who’d been a police reporter for the Omaha Bee-News. At the age of eight, she and her best friend became the creators and co-editors-in-chief of "The Wednesday Report" for four years. After years as a San Jose Mercury News columnist, Joanne started an education blog in 2001 and wrote "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds." She freelances for online sites, newspapers, magazines, foundations and think tanks. In addition to blogging at joannejacobs.com, Joanne writes Community College Spotlight at ccspotlight.org.

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