‘Click-click’ credits raise graduation rates

K-12 schools are adding — and sometimes requiring — online classes, reports the New York Times.  Failing students try to “recover” credits online; successful students take electives and Advanced Placement classes that don’t generate enough interest to justify a class. But the quality of online learning is suspect, especially for weak students.

Memphis City Schools now requires all students to take at least one course to graduate, starting with this year’s sophomores. School officials say “they want to give students skills they will need in college, where online courses are increasingly common, and in the 21st-century workplace,” the Times reports.

But it is also true that Memphis is spending only $164 for each student in an online course.

. . . “It’s a cheap education, not because it benefits the students,” said Karen Aronowitz, president of the teachers’ union in Miami, where 7,000 high school students were assigned to study online in computer labs this year because there were not enough teachers to comply with state class-size caps.

Idaho will give a laptop to every high school student and require four or more online courses. Critics complain the state will replace teachers with technology.

Chicago and New York City are piloting online learning programs, which include both credit recovery and advanced classes for high school students, as well as “personalized after-school computer drills in math and English for elementary students.”

Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students at the K-12 level took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier, according to the Sloan Consortium, an advocacy group for online education. About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schools that appeal to home-schooling families, according to another report.

There’s little research on the effectiveness of online courses for K-12 students, reports the U.S. Education Department.

Even online advocates are “dubious” about online courses that let students who’ve failed a regular class “recover” the credits, the Times reports. These “click-click credits” are used to boost graduation rates.

Sheffield High in Memphis, once a “dropout factory” with a graduation rate below 60 percent, now hopes to graduate 86 percent of the class of 2011. Online classes have helped. The district buys software for the Florida Virtual School, then pays its own teachers extra to work 10 hours a week with 150 online students.

The Times watches Daterrius Hamilton’s online English 3 course.

. . . he read a brief biography of London with single-paragraph excerpts from the author’s works. But the curriculum did not require him, as it had generations of English students, to wade through a tattered copy of “Call of the Wild” or “To Build a Fire.”

Asked about social Darwinism, the 18-year-old student did a Google search, copied a Wikipedia entry and e-mailed it to the teacher.

Online classes aren’t always money savers, writes Sarah Butrymowicz on HechingerEd. In particular, online credit-recovery classes don’t work without “some sort of teacher presence, whether virtual or physical.”

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  1. SuperSub says:

    There is absolutely no benefit for students to learn online with the exception of students who cannot attend school. I am disappointed that all the content developers are going the online route instead of the standalone software route. If I had the control, I would disconnect all student computers from the internet in my district.

  2. I would agree. The concept of credit recovery is a joke, due to the issue that very few students will actually learn anything. The problem comes from the increasing number of credits needed to graduate from high school vs. the number of actual credits you can earn.

    When I attended high school, you had to have 19 credits (out of a possible 24) in order to graduate (with requirements for math, english, science, history, government, etc).

    If you failed a course, it wasn’t the end of the world, as you could make up the course during the normal school year. The truth about ‘recovery’ is that students really don’t learn much which is useful, and this shows up later on the job, or when the student needs massive remediation if they try to attempt college (and in most cases, simply drop out due to the number of courses they must take just to get ready for coursework which actually applies towards a degree or certificate).

    I don’t understand what is wrong with the concept of ‘summer school’ (of course, the ole stigma attaches, he or she is in summer school, must have flunked).

    I agree about overuse of computers in school (when I was in high school, the only computers we had were a CP/M machine and dumb terminals), and the only students who used them were in computer math.

  3. Unfortunately, some poor instances of online courses for credit recovery taint the view of online learning overall. Our school offers college preparatory courses online and we are careful to communicate that these are rigorous and not suitable for students looking for quick credit recovery.

    I do not feel the issue is with online courses but rather with schools and students looking for a quick fix. As with in person education, there are poor classes and quality classes available.