Getting Students Back Academic Track with Credit Recovery

The path toward high school graduation is an obvious one. Earn the credits you need in each subject area, graduate, and move on.

There are plenty of ways to earn these credits. Learners can take traditional courses, credit acceleration, or credit recovery. Some schools even break learning down into smaller, more manageable lessons that help to fill in missing gaps.

As easy as it sounds, earning credits can be arduous. Compound this with missing school (either by choice or out of obligation) and trying to catch up without falling further behind, credit recovery programs can fail our learners.

How Credit Recovery Works Most of the Time

Lack of credits prevents high school learners from graduating. To shore up graduation rates, schools have developed credit recovery programs. These programs allow at-risk learners to catch up on the instruction they missed.

The idea is simple. Learners enroll in credit recovery programs to make up for lost time and collect missing credits. They work on lessons in the evenings, on weekends, and even during the school day. Some learners enroll in online programs and work from home.

You’d think this focused work on credit recovery would launch a learner toward graduation faster than a senior can throw a spitwad. You’d be wrong.

Who Benefits from Credit Recovery

According to a panel paper written ten years ago, credit recovery was “ a particularly effective strategy to prevent dropping out for black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged learners. It increased the likelihood of those groups graduating with their diplomas.

Educators and schools report that learners in credit recovery speed too quickly through courses. They retain less info than their peers who participated in rigorous, hands-on activities. As it turns out, low-quality credit programs produce low-quality results.

Are we surprised?

We shouldn’t be. What we’ve learned about brain-based education tells us that “clicker courses” don’t engage the brain. These online curriculum units allow learners to advance by left-clicking a mouse until the correct answer appears. These programs fail to entrench the memory of learning deeply enough for later retrieval.

How to Establish a High-Quality Credit Recovery Program

According to iNACOL, nearly nine out of ten schools offer credit recovery. To ensure the efficacy and strength of each instructional program, the International Association for k-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) recommends these best practices:

· Base course progression on competency. As learners complete lessons, the application should adapt accordingly by providing more practice or by directing the learner to the next lesson or activity.

· Adopt blended learning. You probably won’t find a school that relies exclusively on education technology for credit recovery. Learners need time to take credit recovery courses online, and they also need time with their educators. That requires flexible scheduling.

Another requirement of any online curriculum is that it should be customizable. No two learners taking the same credit recovery course have the same needs. Personalized learning programs should be precisely that: tailored to individual needs.

Credit recovery can help learners get back on track to graduation. We owe it to our learners and ourselves to engage in the best practices to help them reach their goals. 

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