In today’s K12 education system, there’s an expectation that students master content and coursework the first time that they are exposed to the material. Credit recovery programs, like those offered by Penn Foster, provides students with who have either failed a class or fell behind for a second chance at success. Often a single course credit can stand between a student and graduation, and credit recovery enables the student to earn the single credit and graduate on time. Credit recovery is also known as a dropout-prevention strategy, summer school and even "grade forgiveness," as it's called in Florida.
Boosting struggling students' chances of graduating seems like it would be an academically agreeable initiative, but critics question the effectiveness and motives behind this second chance at graduating.
The Credit Recovery Debate
The tension lies between high school graduation rates and high academic standards, states The Hechinger Report.1 Pressure from federal and state requirements, as well as financial pressures, can move school districts to lower the bar of academia to push students through to graduation. Credit recovery is under scrutiny as being a fix-it crutch that school systems (turned "diploma mills") depend on to fast-track students to graduation.
In actuality, credit recovery can strengthen the learning experience while putting students back on course to graduate. For example, this past June, the New York State Education Department announced that in the Buffalo school district, the graduation rate increased from 47.8 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2013.2 Buffalo's GradPoint Online Credit Recovery program assesses what students have mastered and need to review, and then administers specific lessons students need to focus on, both at home and in class. For Buffalo, credit recovery efforts produce results and provide students a chance to earn a diploma.
With the credit recovery option, students can redo coursework or complete a class in an online, blended or in-person environment. It's that second chance to earn a high school diploma in which students can zero in on difficult material and self-pace to meet their needs. Below are four common misconceptions about recovery programs, followed by rebuttals that advocate how they enhance education.
Credit Recovery Programs Aren't Challenging Enough
Credit recovery programs are widely diverse in design. One program may be highly customized to meet student needs independently online, and another may be structured around a traditional classroom setting with face-to-face teacher support. What may be challenging to one student may not or may be challenging to another. Skeptics believe credit recovery programs are "watered down" substitutes for real classroom settings, yet what may be mediocre or boring learning material to one student may be prolific for another.
The centerpiece of credit recovery programs is the focus on personalization. An online credit recovery program can be specially designed to engage gifted students who just doesn't perform well in traditional settings or match the unique learning style of a struggling nontraditional learner. Both types of students, for example, can require different types of learning models and approaches to challenge their capabilities.
Cindy Lohan, eSolutions manager for Florida Virtual School, asserts, "Online learning gives students seeking credit recovery the individual attention they need to be successful," according to "Promising Practices in Online Learning: Using Online Learning for At-Risk Students and Credit Recovery" by the North American Council for Online Learning.3 FLVS found success by offering distance and self-paced online education courses. FLVS students who self-reported taking credit recovery courses had a 90.2 percent passing rate during the 2007-2008 school year.
Credit Recovery Is Poorly Aligned With Coursework
The purpose of a credit recovery program is to strengthen students' skills in weak areas and give them the opportunity to focus on difficult subjects and skip repetitious material they've already mastered. With this level of tailored learning, the coursework may naturally deviate from the curriculum; but it doesn't necessarily suggest that the core of the content is devalued or off-track in any way. Also, credit recovery programs place a strong emphasis on variety; programs can be traditionally face-to-face, online or both, depending on which method supports the student most effectively. As a result, the coursework won't mimic the class's detail by detail.
If anything, a credit recovery solution provides an enhanced learning experience supplemented by a system that charts student progress, tracks credit accumulation and projects on-time graduation. Jackson School District's Alternative School in Jackson, Michigan, uses a blended approach, which ends up increasing its curriculum offerings.3 Flexible learning approaches, using lab settings and online components, for example, can motivate students, promote independent learning skills and keep students on track to graduate.
Schools Don’t Have Adequate Quality Control
Because blended recovery programs feature online learning, the level of academic quality and authenticity with third-party software applications is a concern. Yet, in a blended model, students aren't just mindlessly earning a credit by staring at a computer screen. Teachers and mentors also interact with students in a classroom and lab to provide face-to-face help, guidance and feedback.
In Oregon's Salem-Keizer School District, a licensed teacher works with students remotely and visits classrooms as part of the The Bridge Program instructional team. This type of online teacher, along with a team of instructional assistants, an office specialist, special ed teacher and guidance counselor, can monitor students to ensure they're not just idly passing a class in nine hours, but engaged in the material both offline and online.3Creating individualized academic plans and setting expectations without lowering standards can help maintain the integrity and quality of education in recovery credit programs.
In recovery programs, students receive credit based on the skills and knowledge they gain, not how much time they spend in a seat, according to The Hechinger Report.1 A student may be physically present in a classroom, yet mentally absent. A student may be at home on the computer, but mentally engaged while completing an interactive assignment as part of the credit recovery program. Credits are typically earned based off competency measures as opposed to seat-time requirements.
Grade Recording Can Be Insufficient
The grading policies of credit recovery programs can be a murky area of fairness and unfairness, accurate representation and misrepresentation. Grade averaging can increase the likelihood that a student fails, suggests The Glossary of Education Reform, and inaccurately represent academic performance. Proponents, however, advocate grade averaging because it prevents students who consistently performed poorly or didn't meet expectations throughout the course from earning a comparable or higher grade than someone who consistently performed well and did indeed meet expectations. Grader averaging ensures top performing students earn their deserved high grade.4
The Center for Public Education also mentions that differences in grades, such as giving a complete grade replacement or recording an additional grade, can be unfair. However, similar to grade averaging, giving a pass/fail grade can create uniformity and fairness in recording grades, regardless of the type of program.5
To learn more about Penn Foster's credit recovery, summer school, and dropout retrieval programs, click here.
Resources: (1) Students short on educational credits turn to ‘recovery’ programs (2) Buffalo graduation rate rises with ‘credit recovery’ (3) Using Online Learning for At-Risk Students and Credit Recovery (4) Credit Recovery; Grade Averaging (5) Credit recovery programs: full report
Students are encouraged to pass their courses before having to look at credit recovery options. If students are struggling in a course they should first speak with their teacher. Most teachers make themselves available to students before or after school for extra instruction.
There is an opportunity to earn a passing grade for a year-long course even if an “F” grade is given for a semester. Example: English 1 semester 1 grade earned is a 50% “F” and semester 2 earned is a 100% “A”; student would earn a 75% “C” for the year based on the percentage of semester 1 and semester 2 averaging together.
If a student wants to recover or grade replace a semester or yearlong “F” or “D” students may retake the course and replace the grade if they earn a “C” or higher. Students have the following options available to recover credit:
Extended School Year is usually offered at LOLHS during the summer months for a total of 10 school days. There is a morning session and an afternoon session. Each session allows for ½ credit earned in a particular course with the opportunity to earn 1 full credit if students attend the full day (both morning and afternoon sessions). Usually course offerings are core courses such as English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. * See your School Counselor for more information during the month of May.
Online Courses: Online courses can provide opportunities for students to make up credit anytime from anywhere; however studies show that often students are unprepared for the challenges inherent with this style of delivery.
In order to help students know if they will be successful learning in an online environment, please keep the following in mind:
- Semester long courses take roughly 18 weeks and year long courses 32 weeks to complete
- Students must have computer, internet, email access
- Students will need to devote 3 – 5 hours per week to keep up with the set pace
- If students do not keep up with the set pace they will be dropped with an “F” if they do not drop the course within the drop/ add period
- Be able to prioritize tasks, organize assignments and complete assigned work within a deadline
- Be able to work independently
- Students must have a working knowledge of how to copy, cut, and paste text/ files between programs and apply new software applications
If after reading the above success factors you would like to make up credits online through FLVS, see your counselor for the proper paperwork for beginning the online course registration.
CREDIT RECOVERY PROGRAM
RULES AND GUIDELINES
The purpose of the Cohort Credit Recovery Program is to provide an alternative instructional model for students who have not been successful in earning credits at the high school level. The Credit Recovery Program provides an independent, self-directed learning environment using a computer-based curriculum that provides students with the opportunity to earn high school credits and graduate with their cohort group.
Cohort Credit Recovery is designed for students in grades 9-12 who are “off track” due to high school credit deficiencies.
Student must have failed the courses in which he or she is seeking a credit replacement.
School officials may conduct conferences with eligible students and their parents/guardians.
Students and parents must sign Cohort Credit Recovery Parent and Student Information Form.
Sessions will be held in designated eLabs during regular school hours; however, special arrangements can be made to access the eLab before or after school with the approval of the school administrator.
Bus transportation will be provided by the District School Board of Pasco County during regular school hours for students who would normally qualify for transportation service.
Parents/guardians are responsible for providing student’s transportation if the student needs access to the eLab before or after regular school hours. Students with a valid driver’s license may drive to school, following rules outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
- Accelerated Pace: the student must perform at a minimum 80% mastery on Traditional Pace: the student must complete all assignments and perform at a minimum 70% mastery in order to move to the next lesson. The student will have 2 attempts on the quiz to demonstrate mastery. After two unsuccessful attempts the teacher will intervene and provide additional support prior to further attempts. If the student continues to not demonstrate mastery the student may be moved to the next lesson at the teacher’s discretion.
- Diagnostic Test: APEX does not factor the results of the diagnostic test into the student’s grade. This test can be utilized at the teacher’s discretion.
- Unit Tests/Exams: 70% mastery does not apply to the unit test or final exam. Teachers will continuously monitor the student’s final grade. Students earning a final grade of D must be presented to the assistant principal in charge of the Graduation Enhancement Program to determine the appropriateness of issuing credit.
- Assessment Resources: Students may access notes during quizzes, unit tests and final exams. Students cannot use notes or any other aids for diagnostic tests.
- Course Completion: Final grade document must be signed by the assistant principal in charge of the Graduation Enhancement Program prior to the issuing of credit. A copy of this document, along with evidence of course work, must be filed in the student’s cumulative folder.
- Students taking English IV must have proof from their regular 12th grade English teachers that they have successfully completed the mandatory research paper. If evidence is not provided, the student will be required to write such a paper during the Credit Recovery session. Standard MLA / APA research paper format will be mandated. Students will be required to work on the paper on their own time outside of class, but may access school resources via the media center and online subscriptions for research.
- A credit recovery grade of C or higher will replace the original failing grade (F) for purposes of grade point average calculation. While the original failing grade will appear on the student’s high school transcript, the credit recovery grade will be used to determine whether the student has met the requirements for high school graduation.
- A student may be enrolled in more than one credit recovery course at the same time with guidance counselor and school administrator approval.
- Advanced Placement and Honors courses are available for credit recovery.
- Students are expected to follow the District School Board of Pasco County Student Code of Conduct as outlined in the Student Handbook as well as rules specific to the school eLab.
- Students are expected to complete an average of 0.5 credits every 9 weeks.
- Students will use the technology equipment and software in an appropriate manner.
- Students will not bring food or drinks into the eLab.
- Printing of lessons will not be allowed without the approval of the resource teacher.
- Students may ask for help from the resource teacher; however, they are expected to work independently and demonstrate attempts to complete work prior to accessing help from lab teachers.
- No tutoring or assistance will be given during the pre-test or post-tests for mastery.
- Students must have a notebook to handwrite notes or to work out solutions to problems.
- Note-taking is a required component of credit recovery. Students must show evidence of notes taken, whether accessing the modules at school or from home. Facilitating teachers will monitor the note-taking process.
- Students will print out progress reports on a regular basis to monitor their own progress toward reaching the required mastery of 70% on the lessons.
- Students will enter and exit courses following program guidelines.