Boot Camp is a High School Class

August 15, 2013

The following is an excerpt from my book The Other Side of Teaching.

It was Regents week. In between grades and preps, two teachers were talking and the words “boot camp in the gym” caught my attention. So, I started to listen and ask questions.

Apparently, at My School, there are make-up classes for students who are failing, for those who need credits to graduate, and for the “Long Term Absentees” (LTA) who need everything, and Boot Camp was created to meet this need. Under the NCLB law, the administration must give the failing students the opportunity to make-up failed or missed classes.

I had never heard of Boot Camp (BC) before, so I decided to ask some more questions. A few hours later, the story of BC unfolded in all its glorious and or gory details.

BC evolved from NCLB. Every child must pass every subject. No child can be left behind his age and grade level. In order to ensure that no child is left behind, a program called the Credit Recovery Program (CRP, I call it CRAP) came into being. At My School the CRP is fondly called Boot Camp.

In BC during Regents week, all the failures who desired to recover lost credit came to school and in five days were able to earn the credit for a semester’s worth of work. Isn’t this a great system? What a great president (George W. Bush) to produce this kind of education system to groom the future leaders of America. It is not important if they do not know where Iraq is or what H2o is. A semester’s work in chemistry can be completed in five half days and credit received to graduate! We did not leave them behind. We just left them out of a literate society. I wonder if BC graduates get more than a 65.

To think I wasted so much time sitting in those stupid classrooms when I was in high school when I could have done CRAP by going to BC. But wait – I could not have, because we had to actually do the work to earn the grade in those days. I hope these BC graduates do not come back as high school teachers! However, coming back as politicians or even as the president will suit them just fine.

What message are we sending to the grade school students in this country? Grade school is the setting where kids learn to read and write, where they learn about math, science, health, history, geography, nature, and yes, discipline, responsibility, ethics, respect and the principles to live their daily lives. It is bad enough that our politicians do not know where Africa is, and we have to teach our citizens to wash their hands when they go to the bathroom.

However, when students know that they can cut classes from September to January and go to Boot Camp for five half days and get the same credit as someone who sat in class for ninety days, the message is clear: there are no consequences. Five days are as good as ninety days. Stay home, cut classes, and just make it all up at Boot Camp. Education is not important anymore, and now we have NCLB, BC, and CRAP to prove it.

We are teaching them to be irresponsible, to have no accountability, and to laugh at the system. In plain English, students know education is a joke. Incidentally, the words he failed, or he is failing cannot, and must never be used for these students. Guidance counselors become hysterical if one even thinks about labeling students with these “negative” words.

Of course, we have supportive administrators whose only concern is to show the mayor and chancellor how well the school is doing and by extension giving everyone high grades and sixty-fives to students for not showing up. There must be a better way to prepare tomorrow’s citizens.


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