Students need to use, not abuse, credit retrieval programs

APEX Learning Virtual School is a credit retrieval program meant to decrease the amount of high school dropouts throughout the nation, and get students back on track for graduation. While most teachers and administrators at Spring Valley advocate for this program with great intention, students need to better utilize the program to get the most out of it.

In the 2015-2016 school year, Spring Valley had a 81 percent graduation rate while the Clark County School District’s (CCSD) overall graduation rate was 71 percent. It’s understandable that Spring Valley would want to graduate as many students as possible and allow every student every opportunity to graduate, but the students making poor academic choices are abusing the system.

“APEX makes students more responsible during the course and I think that’s good, because academically, as you progress to more difficult classes, you take on more and more responsibility for the learning itself,” said Elizabeth Buck, a teacher new to APEX this year.

Many students, however, feel that those in APEX are abusing the system to get an easy pass.

“It (APEX) doesn’t help students because majority of the time no one is really in there reading the material. They just utilize google and copy and paste it so it doesn’t really help the student, it just helps their grade,” said Senior J’Sean Barker.

Rather than providing this opportunity, the school should be showing the value of their classes and education instead. As a result, students slack in their academic work knowing they can make it up in APEX later.

Along with supporting laziness, the APEX program only takes a few weeks to complete if the effort is put in. But how is that fair to students who spend nine months in class, putting in the effort all year round and actually passing? If this is acceptable, should more students do this instead of being in a traditional classroom?

Even more frustrating, students who fail classes are given priority over students who want to improve non-failing grades or get ahead.

“Even if you aren’t missing credits and you want to fix your GPA, they should allow all students in APEX,” said college-bound Senior Samantha Hayes.

“That way I could get better grades, a better GPA, get into better colleges.

APEX serves as an alternative to the Nevada Learning Academy (NVLA), which costs money for students to enroll. Although APEX is free, many students said they preferred paying to retake a class than doing it for free through the APEX program at school.

“I prefer the Nevada Learning Academy, it’s better set up, which makes it almost impossible to cheat,” said AVID Senior Celina Larson, who had failed Geometry Honors Sophomore year and was unable to retake it on APEX.

However even students who are genuinely trying may struggle as APEX does not have the appropriate teachers in the classroom. For example, if a math teacher runs APEX, they may be unable to help students who are taking an English course.

“I have two roles in APEX,” said Dr. Buck. “I help with anything that’s going on with the computer; if you don’t know how to use Word or don’t know how to put a symbol in or take something from one Word document and paste it onto the other – help you do all the things you need to do online.”

A simple solution would be to categorize students according to the subject they are taking on APEX with an appropriate subject teacher.

“My second role, as an academic teacher for Geometry and Algebra, and I help some of those students that are in Geometry and Algebra,” said Dr. Buck. “I grade their work when they’re having problems. I answer their questions for them, just like tutoring, helping them pass the rough stuff.

Teachers like Dr. Buck expect students taking the APEX course not to cheat and be responsible young adults.

“Students have to be responsible. If a student comes in here and does nothing, guess what? They’re going to fail. The biggest con about APEX is that students have to grow up and be more mature,” said Dr. Buck.

Students that do cheat are rewarded for their actions by passing the class.  APEX students have easily been able to find a loophole, whether its the internet or each other.

“It’s an easy A,” said Barker.

APEX has no real deadline other than the end of the semester, which makes it easier for those taking the online course, but unfair to students in traditional classrooms who work hard every night to finish their homework on time.

This program could use a few innovations, such as  ensuring that students are actually learning by making them take a written test as the final exam. This would determine whether or not the student actually learned anything throughout the course.

Although the intention is obviously a good one, allowing students to take APEX allows many to take the easy way out in terms of getting credits for graduation.