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From the publisher: "Juking the stats" in DPS

Juking the stats. Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.” — a cop-turned-teacher in HBO’s series “The Wire,” when asked to boost test scores.

Last week’s article in Westword about abuses in Denver North High School’s “credit recovery” program touched a nerve, and for good reason. It’s a textbook example of kids being used to make adults look better.

There’s no reason to believe the problems detailed in Melanie Asmar’s story are limited to North. In fact I’ve received emails from people at other Denver high schools alleging similarly questionable practices. And the New York Times wrote a national story about credit recovery abuses in April.

I’m sure most of the adults involved – heck, probably all of them – allowed and in some cases encouraged kids to cheat on credit recovery homework and exams thinking it was in the best interest of those kids. So many studies, after all, have shown that young people’s prospects improve significantly with a high school diploma.

District leadership needs to do some soul-searching about whether the pressure exerted on high schools to improve graduation rates tacitly encourages school administrators to juke the stats to make themselves and the district look better.If the diploma has been watered down to the extent that the credential becomes meaningless, though, then every graduate of North High School is hurt by this extreme manifestation of the “pobrecito syndrome” (as in “oh, these poor babies’ lives are so hard we can’t expect too much of them.”)

There’s also an element here of gaming the system for less altruistic reasons. Juking the stats doesn’t just happen in “The Wire.” It’s exactly what happened in North High’s credit recovery program.

For those of you who haven’t read it, here are the main points from Asmar’s story.

READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE

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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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