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High School Teacher Finds Faults In Online Credit Recovery Courses

When it comes to measuring the quality of a school, the graduation rate is often seen as the best way to do so. However, Jeremy Noonan, a high school science teacher in Georgia's Douglas County, finds flaws in the credit recovery courses that may be inflating those numbers. 

As part of his credit recovery teacher training, Noonan "was told to always give answer checks. When a student finished an online quiz or test, he was to pull up the results on his own screen, tell the student which questions were answered incorrectly and instruct them to try again," according to The Washington Post

Noonan believes that these answer checks happen to be a way to skew the graduation rates without a clear reflection of actual "gains in student achievement." Instead of giving students answer checks, Noonan decided he would instruct them to study a bit more and retake the quizzes if they failed twice. However, Noonan's attempt at modest reform was met with some resistance. Noonan recounts a conversation with one student who had been guessing the answers on all of the quizzes and saw nothing wrong with that. 

"Noonan said that in 2015, Douglas County schools’ graduation rate rose from 75.6 percent to 88.2 percent, while the same schools’ proficiency rate was less than 31 percent in six of eight subject areas tested by the state and less than 50 percent in all subject areas," according to the article. 

In fact, Noonan viewed guessing the answers and repeating the quiz as a form of cheating. It's exactly why he chose to completely disregard answer checks and make sure that students were actually studying the material properly. Giving students answer checks doesn't really provide any solid evidence of retention of the material they are learning. Instead, it shows that a student could possibly skate by all the way to graduation with simply guessing and retaking quizzes. 

"I have yet to find a school district that has data to show its credit recovery classes improve learning and help students achieve the mastery they failed to get the first time they took a course. Because graduation rates are such a popular measure of school quality, and credit recovery such a cheap way to raise those percentages, districts cannot be trusted to shake their addiction," said the Post's Jay Mathews. 

In terms of helping students fully learn the material, Noonan is advocating for an approach that considers their best interest, which coincidentally may have an impact on the recent increase in graduation rates.

Read the full story.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.

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