EAST CHICAGO | With three weeks of school left, more than 200 seniors at East Chicago Central High School need one or more credits to graduate.
Some students need as many as 19 credits, according to a list for the class of 2012 credit recovery/classes needed for graduation posted by school administrators May 3. However, some of those students are in the special education program and some may have dropped out of school.
Central Principal Wendel McCollum (no relation to reporter Carmen McCollum) said there are a little more than 300 high school seniors.
"We definitely have seniors who are in need of getting their credits so they can graduate," he said. "Some students are taking the courses they need now. Some are in credit recovery. We offer full-day credit as well as credit recovery after school."
Last year, McCollum said, some students were able to earn a credit in a couple of days. "We're trying to individualize to meet the needs of our students," he said.
McCollum said if it's anything like last year, school officials expect to have more than 200 students graduating. He also said some students will earn their credits in the summer. In fact, 40 students who were part of the 2011 graduating class just finished credit recovery programs recently, McCollum said.
Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample said students have until Sept. 30 to complete their credits to be considered part of the June 2012 graduating class; students who earn their credits later than that are considered five-year high school graduates.
Each year, McCollum said 10 percent to 15 percent of Central's graduating seniors also are granted a waiver. A waiver allows a student to graduate who has not met the basic expectation that each student pass the state's graduation examination and graduate with a Core 40 diploma.
Graduating seniors not having enough credits to graduate, some of whom seem to be able to acquire them relatively quickly through credit recovery and other programs, has caused concern among some parents, according to Pastor T. Brian Hill, with the local ministerial alliance. He said local ministers had calls from parents about the credit recovery program, which seems to award credits in weeks or even days.
McCollum said students are placed on academic teams, and administrators meet weekly with seniors to talk about scheduling, academics and other issues. He said information is provided to teachers and students about where students stand quarterly.
"It is highly unlikely a student can earn 19 credits in the last three weeks" of school, McCollum said. "At best, a student can complete one or two classes in a three-week period. It depends on the amount of effort a student puts into it. We have other options for students, which include summer school and participating in the credit recovery program through the next school year."
Credit recovery programs are offered to students across the country, Sample said.
The theory is that some students fall so far behind, the only way to get them on track to graduation is a credit recovery program.
"They are meant to be a good way to help kids who are really struggling to get the help they need to get back on track to graduation," Sample said. "They are not meant to allow locals to artificially inflate the graduation rate."
That's exactly what some members of the Twin City Ministerial Alliance believe may be happening. That group heard about the school's credit recovery programs and has expressed concern about the large number of students who need to make up credits.
"Parents didn't understand how a student could fail a class over the course of a semester or a year, then sit in front of a computer program — and pass it in an hour or two," East Chicago's Pastor Hill said.
Terry Spradlin, associate director at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University in Bloomington, said credit recovery is a good program, but early intervention also is necessary and should happen whenever a student needs it.
"If a student gets to high school and is still behind, early intervention after the freshman year is most effective," Spradlin said.
"Schools have to engage students and motivate them to learn. Fewer kids should be in this category. I don't just blame the school district. There has to be more effort on the student's part and more effort on the family's part."