Credit recovery goes online

As high schools struggle to raise graduation rates, many have turned to online credit recovery programs, writes Hechinger’s Sarah Carr on Education Next. Are students learning — or just being moved along? It’s not clear, but many are dubious.

“There’s a political motivation,” says David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership, law, and policy at Brooklyn College. “It’s an end run around higher standards.”

Oceanside Unified in California improved graduation rates after opening three centers that offer online credit recovery. Superintendent Larry Perondi believes “the centers have improved the life prospects of students who would have dropped out otherwise, including young parents and teens battling drug addiction.”

Perondi “encourages the district’s best teachers to work” in the centers and assigns extra counselors and social workers to support students.

Three New Orleans charters enroll only students who’ve fallen behind in coursework.

Their supporters argue that the schools provide a much-needed safety valve for students who don’t work well in conventional settings and prefer to move through courses at their own pace; critics worry about the quality of the online courses and fear they take the onus off of traditional high schools to meet the needs of all students.

At the Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy, the average student is an 18-year-old sophomore. “Some of the students failed the same classes multiple times; others dropped out for a period of months, or years,” writes Carr. “The school supplements the online courses with in-person tutorials and small-group instruction.”

The NET, another charter for high-risk students, combines online courses with traditional in-person classes and “advisories.”

Students and teachers say the online courses have some universal benefits: the teenagers can move at their own pace and get instant feedback on how they are doing.

. . . The biggest drawback, however, is that many of the courses are either too easy or too hard. . . . stronger schools and teachers are increasingly figuring out how to use the online courses as a jumping-off point to address individual students’ needs, supplementing easy courses with more challenging material, for instance, or harder courses with extra in-person tutorials.

But some schools rely exclusively on the online courses.

About Joanne


  1. I’ve always been skeptical of credit recovery programs. If a student has flunked the same course several times, I don’t know how a online type of course is going to work in this case (as numerous articles on these types of issues have been printed over the years).

    Feel good may all it is worth, due to the fact that after the credit recovery is granted, does the student actually KNOW the material in question, or do they get the credit so they can graduate (and the district in question looks better).


  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Of course a lot of credit recovery classes “just move[ the student] along.” But then so do a lot of regular classes.

    And the reason is the same. Educators believe that getting a diploma “improved the life prospects of students who would have dropped out otherwise” even if they didn’t learn much. Educators want to believe they are helping young people.

  3. Getting a high school diploma these days isn’t all that hard, and is worth about as much as toilet paper. A recent survey done in 2012 showed that 83 percent of all U.S. college graduates did NOT know what the Emancipation Proclamation ordered (it freed the slaves, but they didn’t get status as citizens until the passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution).

    In 2011, Global Rankings on Innovation and Competitiveness showed the U.S. in 4th place behind Singapore, Finland, and Sweden.

    The only area we ranked first in was GDP per working-age adult, and we ranked third in productivity.

    Source is the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

  4. It would appear that today’s college graduates know little more than they did when they were in high school, from a knowledge standpoint (which is pretty bad, given the cost of a college education (or lack thereof) these days).


  5. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Credit Recovery has always been a joke, and it will always be a joke. It is by its very nature a way to *GIVE* credits to people who are unable or unwilling to *EARN* the credits by taking and passing the courses. (This is not to say that the courses themselves are valuable or meaningful, mind you — just that credit recovery programs are less valuable and less meaningful.)

    I did 15 units of take-home credit recovery for one of my friends in high school. He hadn’t really looked to see what it was, and it turned out that it was “reading check” test stuff for which I didn’t even have to do the reading to pass, since I’d passed the classes the first time around. Took like 45 minutes. He got to graduate and I got a substantial sum in my pocket.

    A joke, I say.

  6. Hey, I don’t know what you guys are grousing about. Once the public got wise to grade inflation something had to be done and an adroit name-change does have a long, illustrious pedigree if hiding failure’s your goal.

    Once it became problematical to hand out unearned grades as part of the regular curriculum the brilliant solution divined by the intellectual titans of the public education sphere was to create a separate track which is dedicated to handing out meaningless grades.

    That ploy could buy the public education establishment a couple of years before the public catches wise and by then the public might once again lapse into the blessed apathy upon which the public education system so heavily depends.