The New York Times published an article, “City Opens Inquiry on Grading Practices at a Top Rated Public School,” which reported one school’s lax policy for credit accrual and grade promotion. At this school, students cannot fail courses as long as they show up, students who missed over 100 days of school were promoted to the next grade, and a student who had failed to pass all required courses received a high school diploma. Credits received without learning the information that the credits represent is known as “empty credits.”
Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective has spent the past year researching empty credits and advocating for policies that will back the accumulation of credits with adequate knowledge. We have found that while doling out empty credits may expedite a students’ high school graduation, it is likely to exacerbate his or her lack of college readiness. This issue is not isolated to the Theater Arts Production Company School, but pervades many schools in New York City, especially alternative schools that cater to over-aged, under-credited students. As many pregnant and parenting students attend these schools, this problem especially impacts the students with whom we work.
In today’s competitive career climate, a high school diploma is insufficient accreditation for most professions. Jobs requiring a high school diploma or less are increasingly being eliminated. This trend has only increased since the inception of the current economic crisis. Thus, the recession impacts those lacking a college diploma most severely. Moreover, individuals without a college diploma earn substantially less over their lifetime than college graduates. Students attending schools that do not help students progress toward higher education or skills-based employment are confined to a life of unemployment, at worse, or a life of low-wages, at best. This outcome is especially detrimental for young parents, who have a more dire need for adequate wages because they must support their children. As most of the young mothers with whom BYMC spoke conceived of their pregnancy as a “wake-up call” to the importance of education, it is paramount that these students are provided with an academically rigorous environment to succeed.
New strategies and methods must be implemented in order to effectively engage transfer students. Data collection must be improved to better assess school quality. Transfer schools must provide social services to their students without sacrificing academic rigor. Diplomas at transfer schools must signify not only the accumulation of the proper number of credits, but the accrual of the skills necessary for college success.
Read our full Statement of Problem and Recommendations.