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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Computer-Module-for-Course-Credit Fraud

I had an interesting conversation with my undergraduate students in my UT Center for Mexican American Studies Education Policy Seminar. Specifically, they shared with me how at least in their high schools, great use was made of "computer modules" by various names that allowed students to earn course credit. They provided numerous examples of how this was being abused by the students themselves. Basically, students could go to sleep in their courses, do poorly, or fail altogether and then make up for it at the end of the year via these modules through which they can earn credit in short time for an entire course. (They, of course, have to pass the TAKS test so we're only referring to students who take and pass it.)

This was very interesting to talk about today. Perhaps these opportunities were designed with good intentions, but they've since been corrupted since at least for some students, it's their safety net if other things fail. For the school, it keeps their dropout numbers low (which are in turn connected to the school's state accountability rating), but the students are not better off--though there are surely some exceptions.

I shared with them how it's curious that the high-stakes testing system in grades 3, 5, and 8 was devised with precisely the rationale of not fostering social promotion--that is, promoting kids up the system who are not qualified to be at that grade level. Despite this rationale, this other problem appears to persist, at least in some places; yet, to my knowledge, it seems not to have registered much attention for policy makers. They talked about how a perverse incentive is created to NOT attend class and basically acquire course credit through examination so that they can get their diplomas even if they're goofing off during the regular year.

Given the way that these modules are playing out for kids, one can't help but think that our children through insidious means are being robbed of the education that they deserve and for what? Cynically, the answer seems to be for a higher state rating rather than for what's good for the children. Money/profits for the software vendors is surely part of the story as well. I need to look into this more. I hope that at least some of my students comment on this matter. -Angela

3 comments:

  1. I think that the computer module credit for course system can be helpful to increase the graduation rate, but not much helpful otherwise. It is certainly not helpful in preparing a student to do well in higher education. These kinds of programs were not available in my high school, so I can only go off from the discussion in our policy class. However, it seems that these programs are another form of tracking. These computer module classes seem to be one level beneath “regular” classes and just above special education classes. Just as I’m opposed to regular classes, I’m also opposed to the computer module credit for course system. I don’t believe that these programs can spark students into becoming life-long learners or thinkers. In contrast, these dull, boring, and low standard programs might have the opposite effect and lead students into having an even more negative attitude towards school and learning. Overall, these programs might help students graduate from high school, but whether they prepare or encourage them to pursue higher education is highly questionable. I think this program is only appropriate and should be highly restricted to the students that have seriously fallen behind. In this way it could be an option one could take instead of getting their GED. However, this program should in no way be available to students who are on course to graduate in time, but would simply be taking the easy way out by obtaining credit through a computer module. Our students should be challenged and encouraged to become life-long thinkers. To conclude, I would recommend these programs be used only as a last resort to try to help students who have seriously fallen behind to graduate. Further, it would be ideal for these computer module classes to be supplemented with teacher mentoring/tutoring.

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  2. I believe that the modules have their benefits if used appropriately. I can only speak about my school and the personal experience I had in these module classes and that my peers had. I think the program has potential benefits in that it gives students a different, more cooperative learning environment. While I was in honors and AP classes for my high school time, I took my Economics through DELTA, the module program at my school. There was a definite difference in the type of classrooms each class had. My honors and AP classes were often louder and there was a lot of talking and sometimes participating. In DELTA, when it was time to get to work, everybody work, which made it a lot easier to stay focused. What disappointed me was the material that was presented by the modules as the curriculum. In my opinion, it was not advanced, nor was it the least bit challenging. Again, I can only speak from my experience which was Economics, but my understanding was that all subjects were on the same “playing field”. My issue with this program is that students can take advantage of the program once they are a part of it, if nothing else has worked out. It is great that it keeps students in school and gives them the opportunity to obtain their diploma, but the material and curriculum does not challenge them. So although they may have enough credits to graduate, they are not fully prepared to compete in a college classroom or another professional setting and they are not fully prepared to take the TAKS exam. I think if the program was more challenging, it would be a great fit for students who need to work at their own pace. There is definitely a sense of personal accomplishment and achievement when a section of a particular subject is finished or when a student receives credit for a course. But it would be so much more beneficial if the curriculum was adequate. In all honesty, I think students are tracked into this program more than they chose it. Many teachers that teach in schools where programs like this exist, might feel like they don’t have to be the safety net the student needs because this program will probably pick them up. By the time students have failed one or two classes in 9th grade and 10th grade, for many the only option left is to enter this program to finish up their credits.

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