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As Tilden High School closes, a last-minute scramble for credits

A month before it closes its doors for good, Brooklyn’s Tilden High School is scrambling to graduate its last class of seniors.

More than a third of Tilden’s 159 seniors are racing to the finish line through credit recovery — online courses they use to recover credits from classes they have failed. Vadim Lavrusik, a student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, visited Tilden to see how credit recovery works on the ground.

Critics often charge that the practice pushes students through school without mastering the material, but Tilden staff told Lavrusik they worry the alternative is worse.

Among the students Lavrusik met is Triston Williams, a senior enrolled in three credit recovery courses. Lavrusik watched as Williams completed a quiz for a course he had repeatedly failed in class:

After reading a quiz question, he would click to a second browser where he had the session’s information available so that he could look up the answer.

“Even though it’s kinda of cheating, it’s easier for me to learn this way,” Williams said. After completing the quiz, he was given an option to retake the quiz if he wasn’t happy with his score. In fact, each student can take each quiz up to five times, using the last score as the final one. Williams was happy with his score. He answered 6 out of 10 questions correctly — students only need a 60 percent to pass on their online courses, which amounts to an “F” in normal graded terms.

Lavrusik’s story is part of Columbia’s School Stories website, which takes an in-depth look at credit recovery practices around the city.

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