Durham News: Opinion

Terry McCann: Teach, don’t push, students to graduate

In President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech address he mentioned that our students are improving.


I beg to differ.

As our state begins to draft standards to replace the Common Core curriculum how better will it improve learning if there is a system in place to push struggling students to graduation with little actual learning transpiring?

Have you heard of credit recovery? There are many versions of it and although the version being used here in Durham Public Schools is the tamest, its results don’t promote learning.

Years ago when students failed a course, they would attend Summer School. Summer School was approximately three to four weeks – Monday through Friday – in a school setting with a teacher, instruction and assessment. Students had to work to earn credit for the course failed.

I taught Summer School early in my career. It was rewarding to see students that could not get it during the year finally get it. The spark in their eyes was euphoric.

Summer School like this no longer exists.

Students today attend credit-recovery classes. Students log onto a computer and supposedly get the equivalent of a 90-day block class in three to five days. How can this be?


Durham Public Schools wants all students to graduate from high school. I want the same.

But principals today are being pressured by their administrators to make sure that their students are graduating and to come up with programs and incentives to get the job done. Some schools have after-school programs where teachers are forced to come up with a plan to amend grades after students complete additional work, while others merely give extra credit assignments that students complete outside of class.

Good teachers want their students to grow and learn. Credit recovery denigrates the teaching process and continues to belittle the teaching profession. Our students are not idiots. They are wise. Why should little Johnny work hard in a course that is difficult for him if he can attend credit recovery for a week and get a credit for the class? I guess they see the hard-working students that study, seek extra tutoring and have parental support as the real idiots.

Pushed hard

The Durham Public Schools School Board mirrors President Obama’s claim of increased student success. While many of our students in Durham Public Schools are very successful and will become future leaders, many are just being pushed through the system – and pushed hard.

How can 34 percent correct on a state End of Grade or End of Course test be considered proficient?

Many states prostituted themselves to receive Race to the Top grants from the Obama administration and used our children as pawns to show that the grants made a difference.

If parents look at the data from grade 3 though 8, they would discover a sea of deficiency exacerbated in the African-American and Hispanic communities. A recent study demonstrates that this phenomenon of students not being directed toward a diploma is most prevalent in the African-American community.

Our students deserve better!

Terry McCann is a Durham Public Schools math teacher and member of the Durham County Republican Party and Black Republican Committee.