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