Gaming the GPA: Alternative High Schools

If there is one thing the Barometer knows is a certainty in this life it is that the human mind knows no limitations when it comes to figuring out ways to meet numbers goals without actually having to achieve the very purpose of those number goals. If a company implements a wellness program — rewarding employees for healthy living– healthy living will not be the goal. The goal will be to meet the metrics used by the company for giving employees healthy living rewards. For example, if the company gives employees Fitbits and rewards employees for reaching 10,000 steps per day, one will soon find Fitbits strapped to hamsters that are running in wheels, or strapped to the top of a powered-up table saw. Or even just sitting at their desks shaking the Fitbits with their hands.

Enter high school students, not in pursuit of knowledge or excellence, who just need a GPA to get into the college of their dreams. These would be the students whose parents could not afford to lay down some serious scratch for bribing coaches, etc. There is a new crop of online and alternative schools in which high school students can take the really difficult courses, rack up AP courses, or just take courses in what employees at some of the schools say “lack sufficient academic rigor.” The courses count on their high school transcripts as completed courses, and, well, the GPAs do rise.

In some of the alternative schools, administrators’ bonuses are geared to the number of sessions they deliver to a large part-time student population. The more courses, the more course sessions completed, the higher the bonuses. So, what we have in these schools are students there to game the GPA system who are being led by instructors and administrators who are gaming their system for reaching high sessions numbers. Some of these schools have created symbiotic dynamics — the desire to game is their common fuel.

The whistleblowers are out and about in the schools. Next stop? Regulation of both alternative courses and the businesses that offer them.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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