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Hello School Accountability, Goodbye Student Responsibility

Bronx Classroom Tales

Hello School Accountability, Goodbye Student ResponsibilityGone are the good ole days of teacher ultimatums that could hold their own against student apathy.


“If you miss ten days of school a semester, you can’t pass the class.”
“If you fail this class, you’ll have to go to summer school.”
“If you fail summer school, you won’t graduate.”


It seems now there are endless options to still succeed even after failing to heed the warnings of educator after educator. In New York, we have a thing called credit recovery – a way to get back credit for failed classes in a much shorter period of time doing a much smaller amount of work. Before, a nebulous practice, today, credit recovery has “standards” to a degree. Schools create committees to approve a credit recovery program and evaluate the student’s mastery of the course content, subject to an audit.


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At my school we’re stuck between a rock and a low graduation rate.


Here’s why. I sit on my school’s committee that just created our spring credit recovery proposal. Students must sit for at least 8 hours, complete a packet which challenges them on mastery concepts in the course, and pass a final assessment or complete a final project.


Last Friday, teachers on the committee got into quite the brouhaha over whether or not students who miss the first session should be able to continue in the program which will take place on Saturdays.


It went something like this:


“We’re already giving them a second chance with the program – they don’t deserve second chances on second chances.”


“That’s fine, but if 20 of the 80 show up? If our seniors don’t show up?”


“That’s on them.”


“No – it’s on us. They don’t graduate. We get shut down.”


“That’s ridiculous. It’s like we want them to graduate more than they do.”


“We do.”


In the end, we agreed on a policy which would not allow students to miss a session but if they did and brought a legitimate excuse and parent to back it up to the school, we would let them back in.


Will we even slide on this? Probably. The truth is our current seniors have had an opportunity for credit recovery nearly every semester in addition to summer school, and some are still behind on credits. They know that we will do everything in our power to get them across that stage.


The bitter irony is that we cannot risk teaching them a lesson. We can’t say, here’s your one chance – take it or leave. Our success as a school will be measured on the condition that they take it, not necessarily on the fact that we will have produced a cohort of irresponsible and unaccountable young adults in the process.


Unfortunately the ultimate ultimatum may hold up – “If you don’t leave high school with consistent work habits and marketable skills, you’re going to struggle for a long, long time.”


How does your school balance student responsibility with school accountability? Share in the comments section!