Online credit recovery is booming

To boost graduation rates, urban school districts are letting students pick up missing credits online, reports Education Week. The good news: That means waiving rules that require “seat time” in a classroom instead of  mastery of a subject.  The bad news: There’s no evidence that online programs work for struggling students. Can kids who failed to focus in a classroom stick with an online course? Are the standards for “mastery” high enough?

New York City, Chicago and Boston are turning to online credit recovery.  Policies differ on whether students can take online courses at home or must go to a school, but districts typically require tests to take place in a supervised setting.

Some 36 states let students to earn high school credits based on proficiency, which may include passing a test or an online course, according to Education Commission for the States. But many districts have stuck with seat-time rules. Capable students might pass out of enough courses to graduate a year or two early.

Seat-time rules are obsolete, says Carmeta P. Vaughan of America’s Promise Alliance, which works to improve graduation rates.

“The notion that students should have to sit in a chair for a certain amount of time when it’s only a certain aspect of algebra they didn’t get baffles me,” Ms. Vaughan said.

Chicago is targeting ninth graders who finish the year short of the normal six credits. Experience shows that students who fall behind in ninth grade are far less likely to graduate.

Boston is using online credit recovery for non-graduating seniors who prefer working at home to attending a traditional summer school.

New York City will introduce online credit-recovery options in 10 schools. The district has approved Apex Learning, Aventa Learning, the Florida Virtual School, CompassLearning and K12 Inc. to provide the courses.  Unlike Chicago and Boston, New York City will require students to sit in classroom computer labs with certified teachers in the room.

When I was reporting for Our School, San Jose was pushing credit-recovery alternative schools based on filling out worksheets. Students were told they could earn double the normal number of credits and get caught up. But very few stuck with it. I’m sure online classes are a lot better, but students who’ve failed classes tend not to be motivated, organized, self-directed learners. I see the potential for a game of let’s pretend: Students pretend they’ve learned, online providers pretend they’ve taught and schools pretend all their graduates have a high school education.

About Joanne