Sunday, August 23, 2009

Past Deadline: Credit Recovery - Failure?

Just back from a holiday so I'm a bit late posting. Here's what appeared in The Courier on Aug. 18:

Credit Recovery 101: Failure?

My eldest child is about to embark upon Grade 2 and, so far, I have been happy with his education. He goes to a great public school with excellent teachers.

There’s something looming in the distance, though, that scares the bejeebers out of me. If not handled carefully, I think it has the potential to undermine his future – and that of his younger sister.

It’s called Credit Recovery. (Cue ominous music.)

It sounds innocuous enough, but it has a sinister side. Credit recovery is a provincial education ministry initiative that, essentially, requires high school teachers to take every measure possible to ensure a student meets all learning requirements to receive a credit.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? The big ol’ ministry is looking after Little Johnny and making sure he gets everything he needs to succeed in school? If that were simply the case I would applaud it, but the reality of it might be enough to make me want to home-school my kids through high school. That is one heck of a lot of math homework for a Word Girl like me.

This issue has been reported in the news a lot in recent months. What I’ve gleaned is the province wants to increase the number of students who graduate from Ontario high schools. To do so, there is supposed to be a greater number of student supports – things to help students who are struggling for whatever reason.

This is a grand notion in theory. Student success is being taken seriously. Of course we don’t want our kids to fail. Or do we?

In the front lines, some high school teachers are talking about their hands being tied. They are required to offer Little Johnny chance after chance when he fails a test or doesn’t submit an assignment or cheats and needs his behaviour modified. He is supposed to be learning from these mistakes. The subtle subtext, though, is that some students are learning rules are made to be broken, deadlines aren’t really deadlines and that teachers, formerly authority figures, really have no power over them. There are ways around everything.

The students who aspire to do well and hand things in on time learn the less-motivated will earn the same piece of paper they do at the end of it all. It must be incredibly frustrating for the teachers and even the students.

Moreover, it is so unfair. Now college teachers are seeing some kids who are flabbergasted when finally faced with actual failure because they simply haven’t done the work. They want do-overs and extensions and they don’t seem to understand that cheating is unacceptable. They are stunned when presented with late penalties on assignments.

Sometimes kids fail. Sometimes they simply don’t do the work and shouldn’t get the reward. I’m all for offering supports to help kids to succeed, but to me that means figuring out their obstacles to success (such as learning disabilities or varied learning styles) and finding remedies, instead of minimizing the consequences, even unwittingly, for missed deadlines, cheating and lack of respect.

Sometimes kids need help to achieve success, but a big part of growing up is learning to take responsibility for one’s actions. Continually offering do-overs is just not going to teach that fact of life.

I think it is unfair that some young adults, many of whom are paying for their own post-secondary education, are floundering in college today because of the basic lessons or soft skills they weren’t allowed to learn or practise in high school.

It’s all fine and good for Ontario to have impressive graduation rates from high school, but what is quantity over quality going to do for society?

I want my kids to have an education that teaches them that, yes, sometimes you screw up and you’re penalized. Strive to do better. Hand in your work on time. Don’t cheat. Earn your reward for doing your best. Respect your teachers. Why wouldn’t we teach them this?

Are post-secondary teachers now the gatekeepers as the credit recovery stampede thunders in?
And if this ludicrous problem isn’t solved in about seven years, Word Girl here may have to brush up on algebra, calculus, physics and chemistry.

That’ll go well.Gulp.


Monnik said...

Wow - I think you nailed it when you wrote this:

"a big part of growing up is learning to take responsibility for one’s actions. Continually offering do-overs is just not going to teach that fact of life."

This is doing everyone a disservice, and for what? Just to boost the graduation statistics? Seems like it dilutes the significance of a degree.

tif said...

jeez, you're so picky. :) just kidding. you're on there now. thanks!