Five things we learned about credit mills (not including what a credit mill actually is), thanks to the Toronto Star

Five things we learned about credit mills (not including what a credit mill actually is), thanks to the Toronto Star

The investigative reporters at the Toronto Star have changed the way we think about a lot of things. They’ve made us wary of retirement homes, skeptical of charities and, even though it really wasn’t necessary, they reminded us about the horrors of the dentist’s office—especially with those scare quotes around the word “dentist.” To this list, we can now also add private schools. But not to worry, Old Boys—the Star’s investigation focused on “credit mills,” the for-profit institutions students often attend to take a class or two outside their regular school (not prestigious old-school institutions like Upper Canada College). Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are a few things you should know about private schools/credit mills, after the jump.

1. Credit mills help students snag university spaces, which are at a premium
The investigation begins with a roundup of its main findings, including: students paying to rewrite tests, schools raising grades upon request and students writing tests with lax supervision. One principal compares the inflated grades to steroid use in professional sports—if one player uses them, others also have to if they want to keep up.

2. Financial incentives make kids study harder, say the people collecting the cash
The principal of one school attributes students’ high grades to financial incentives, saying they work harder when it’s their money on the line. Of course, this argument assumes students at private schools are paying their own way. (Also, the province shut down the principal’s school last year.)

3. For-profit schools are proliferating across the province, especially in Toronto
In 1995 there were 160 private schools in Ontario. There are 358 today, according to the Star. Half of them are in Toronto, and eight high schools have had their licences revoked since 2006.

4. Upper Canada College and some place in a strip mall look the same on paper
The Star explains that credits obtained at private schools are designated with a “P.” The problem is that this designation is used whether credits were obtained at UCC or the “unscrupulous strip mall operations.” You can spit out your champagne in disgust right about now, Old Boys.

5. This could be a case of good intentions gone wrong
One principal tells the Star that his school is a viable opportunity for students with learning disabilities to get a decent education. That sounds like a valid argument, but it’s coming from an administrator who will let a student rewrite a test if they can provide a “legitimate reason”—plus, you know, a hundred bucks. That might not be the alternative students with learning disabilities are looking for.

Star Investigation: Cash for marks gets kids into university [Toronto Star]