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Broader review of credit recovery sought

Denver school board member Jeannie Kaplan has asked Superintendent Tom Boasberg to request an expanded state review of the district’s credit recovery programs.

After a May 25 Westword article raised questions about the integrity of the credit recovery program at North High School, Boasberg on June 8 asked the Colorado Department of Education to appoint an independent expert to review credit recovery practices at the school.

Credit recovery programs allow students to take supervised online courses to make up regular classes they’ve failed previously.

Friday, Kaplan made public an email she sent to Boasberg June 9 asking if it would be possible to expand the state review to include all DPS schools using credit recovery, citing a concern that “increased remediation figures” could be a result of “this flawed program.”

In her email Kaplan also wrote, “I continue to be concerned about our policy of giving diplomas without keeping to high standards – in other words, are we becoming a diploma factory with no meat behind the piece of paper? I have heard about several other high schools with similar stories. What is happening at these schools regarding credit recovery?”

Kaplan said Friday, “I have not heard back from the superintendent.”

District spokesman Michael Vaughn issued a statement saying, “We are committed to ensuring that all of our programs meet our high standards of rigor and support for our students. Our concerns at North are related to oversight and management of the credit-recovery program at that school.

In addition, our request to CDE asked for ‘recommendations to the District about policies and procedures to ensure a high level of rigor in our credit-recovery programs throughout the District’.”

In a commentary posted on the EdNews opinion section June 6, DPS Assistant Superintendent Antwan Wilson wrote, “The issues raised in the report are very serious ones, and we are actively investigating the claims and reviewing our overall credit-recovery procedures. Should we find violations of our guidelines or ethical standards or the need to implement clearer or stronger policies, we will take action to ensure the integrity and rigor of that program and all of our programs.”

Wilson said DPS’ own review “has determined at a minimum that there were serious deficiencies in following procedures and keeping records during the 2009-10 school year” at North.

CDE Deputy Commissioner Diana Sirko said Friday, “The scope of our investigation right now is focused on the North issue” and that she has not talked to Boasberg about expanding the review.

Sirko said CDE hopes to finish review of the North program in early August, “so that if there are any procedural issues, or changes, then we can put them in place for the beginning of the school year.”

Kaplan listed several other DPS high schools at which she’s heard credit recovery programs may need scrutiny. “I absolutely know Monbtello,” she said. “I know Abraham Lincoln, and I’ve heard that it would involve TJ, South and West. I just read the EdNews piece on expected graduation rates, and it all points to us not doing what we should doing.”

Wilson, in his commentary, defended DPS initiatives to improve high schools, writing, “Over the past several years, the Denver Public Schools has significantly strengthened the rigor of its high school programs.”

Kaplan has been a critic of some reform initiatives of the Boasberg administration.