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]
6 thoughts on “Five things we learned about credit mills (not including what a credit mill actually is), thanks to the Toronto Star”
Don’t absolve the private schools where the “old boys” and “old girls” study. My cousin teaches at one and has been hauled into at least a couple of meetings with a parent and the principal because that parent was demanding higher mark for his/her kid to get into post-secondary.
The end result was the principal ordered my cousin to shut up and bump the marks up, which the student did not deserve or had earned at all.
And why? Fear of funding from that parent and others for the school. So yes, money gets marks unethically in those high-end private schools too.
I meant fear of loss of funding.
Great summary of the issues!
How about number 6: Inspections are a waste of time and money! The Minister of Education needs to introduce a policy that requires students to take exams at the public school they attend in order to apply a credit to their “public high school diploma”. This would shut down the “unscrupulous” operations immediately!
This is a turf war plain and simple. No Ontario teachers are ever fired for incompetence, and when they are questioned the union shoots down all challenges. These schools may not be perfect, but they fill a desperately needed void in our crappy education system. The finger pointing from the public board needs to be turned back on where it belongs, directly at them.
Careful where you point fingers.
Our high school system is as crappy as those in the US under investigation. If any investigators ever went undercover at a public high school, they would see why so many are paying for their credits when they could get them for free. The focus of the article is on university upgrades, but the need for an alternative education system goes much deeper than that.
UCC and Crescent run a summer academies. For a grand or two, anyone can take a course. I did. We were allowed re-tests (no extra fee for that). We were told that the course would be compacted due to the time restraints of summer. I think compacting is another way of saying that we would not cover all the material. The day before the exam, we were prepped on what would be on the exam. I am not saying I did no work but I certainly found it a much looser environment than my own school. I would say that the marks were inflated and that the marks of some friends who went to “credit mills” were just inflated a bit more. Overall, all private, fee paying schools are in the business of making money and parents do pay for marks. If you have to choose, go to Crescent over UCC for a summer credit but just because the classrooms are not as dingy and musty and you won’t trip over a thousand camp kids.
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