- Students in Chicago Public Schools who took an online credit recovery program over the summer to pass 9th-grade algebra 1 were no less likely to earn the same number of credits by the end of high school than those who took a face-to-face credit recovery course, according to a new study appearing in Educational Researcher.
- Both groups, however, were still far less likely to graduate in four years than those who passed algebra in 9th grade, but were slightly more likely to graduate than those who failed to make up the credit over the summer.
- Led by Jordan Rickles, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, the study expands on an earlier randomized controlled trial showing better outcomes for students in the face-to-face course. The researchers conclude that the “rush” to use online credit recovery programs might not be warranted without carefully considering the particular features of the online course, as well as the students’ overall academic and social-emotional needs.
As the use of online credit recovery options expands, researchers are increasingly investigating the advantages and disadvantages of such programs. Rickles and other researchers with the American Institutes for Research are also conducting a study of online credit recovery programs for algebra 1 and 9th-grade English in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In Chicago, the online course, for example, focused exclusively on second-semester algebra 1, and each class included an in-class mentor who monitored behavior, provided technical support and communicated with the online math teacher, but was not required to be a certified math teacher. The face-to-face summer school course was taught by a certified math teacher, who also had flexibility to cover “prerequisite content that could help” students better grasp the second-semester material.
Depending on whether the online class is held at school and includes the mentor position, that option might end up costing schools more than a traditional summer school course. For larger schools, the researchers write, course-specific, in-person classes might make more sense. But in smaller schools, it might be more cost efficient to have a single classroom in which students are taking different credit recovery courses, depending on their needs.
Students in credit recovery programs, however, are often at-risk for a variety of reasons, such as chronic absenteeism and behavior issues, and “it may be unrealistic to expect a single credit recovery course, whether online or [face-to-face], to put failing students back on the path to on-time graduation," the researchers write, suggesting that it might be best to target online options to students who are most likely to succeed in them and to implement online credit recovery as part of a “comprehensive intervention strategy for school engagement and dropout prevention.”