Credit Recovery. INFORMATIONAL BRIEF: A look at credit recovery programs across the United States

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1 Credit Recovery INFORMATIONAL BRIEF: A look at credit recovery programs across the United States Prepared by the New York Comprehensive Center Educational Technology Team July 2012 Maxwell Mileaf Anushka Paul Emily Rukobo Abby Zyko

2 Executive Summary High school dropout rates have increased over the years affecting student morale on the micro level as well as the nation s academic and financial performance. Credit recovery programs were envisioned as the solution to increase graduation rates across the country. These programs however, vary widely in both effectiveness and content delivery modality from state to state, district to district, or even school to school in some areas. Thus there is a variety of options to engage students in the crucial practice of credit- recovery: from online learning, to small class tutoring sessions each with their own strengths and weaknesses but all of which allow students to gain proficiency in the skills that are required to advance, and facilitate students learning at their own pace. The New York State Education Department recently organized a series of Town Hall Meetings on credit recovery where participants were invited to submit their responses either by making an oral presentation or submitting a written testimony addressing some guiding questions that covered topics like course attendance, instructional plan and content, minimum seat time requirement, course documentation, limit of the number of credit recovery, assessments for credit recovery programs and an evaluation process to ensure the fidelity and rigor of credit recovery programs (The New York State Education Department, 2012). The purpose of this brief is to review the current literature on credit recovery programs to facilitate exploration into the variety of novel programs that are used in New York as well as other states. Through this paper, we will present information from interviews with vendors who provide schools with credit recovery programs. This will focus on course information, implementation, modality, standards alignment; college readiness plans to name a few aspects. We will provide step- by- step recommendations from pre implementation to post implementation. In addition we will explore the feasibility of implementing various credit recovery programs, and discuss the infrastructure, manpower, training and curriculum development necessary to implement a unique and effective credit recovery program in New York State. The ultimate goal is identifying ways to best address a student s academic deficiencies and individual needs so as to provide students with rigorous and applicable instruction in the subject matter required so that students will seamlessly re- integrate into their classrooms or be ready to enter post- secondary education.

3 Table of Contents Section 1. Introduction 1.1. About this Informational Brief 2. Pre- Implementation of credit recovery programs 2.1 Infrastructure 2.2 Eligibility determinations for students entering credit recovery programs 2.3 Setting up a credit recovery team to implement these programs 2.4 Curriculum development for credit recovery programs 3. Implementation of credit recovery programs 3.1 Delivery Method 3.2 Characteristics of credit recovery programs 3.3 Role of the teacher in supporting student achievement 3.4 Effectiveness or Rigor of the program 4. Post- Implementation 4.1 Credit recovery and graduation rates 4.2 Credit recovery and college and career readiness 5. Strategies for increasing the effectiveness of credit recovery programs 5.1 Preparing students for the program 5.2 Training teachers on effective pedagogical approaches 5.3 Measuring students progress 5.4 Socio- emotional support for students 6. Recommendations for New York State 6.1 For the state 6.2 For districts 6.3 For school 6.4 Next steps Appendices Appendix A: Credit Recovery Program Provider Interview Questions Appendix B: Credit Recovery Program Provider Interview Apex Appendix C: Credit Recovery Program Provider Interview Aventa Appendix D: Credit Recovery Program Provider Interview Florida Virtual Works Cited Page

4 1. Introduction Credit recovery programs, since their inception, have often been viewed as the solution for students to stay in school and graduate with the rest of their class. Demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes for the subject, including passing Regents examinations, or other standardized summative assessments, in the subject area is also another important goal of credit recovery programs. However, many programs do not satisfactorily address the student s course completion deficiencies and individual needs or ensure that the student receives equivalent, intensive instruction in the subject area provided, as applicable (NYSED, 2010). Paragraph (8) of subdivision (d) of section of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education for New York State (NYS), which was added effective May 12, 2010, and commencing July 1, 2010, outlined that a school district, registered nonpublic school, or charter school may provide a student, who had the opportunity to complete a unit of study in a given high school subject but who failed to demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes for such subject, with an opportunity to make up a unit of credit for such subject toward either a Regents or local diploma (NYSED, 2010). There is no single definition for credit recovery and each state defines aspects of the program. New York State has established standards for make- up credit programs (NYSED, 2011): The make- up program must be aligned with the New York State learning standards for that subject, satisfactorily address the student's course completion deficiencies and individual needs, and ensure that the student receives equivalent, intensive instruction in the subject matter area provided under the direction and/or supervision of a teacher. For programs offered by school districts and boards of cooperative educational services, a teacher certified in the subject matter area must provide the direction and supervision. In the case of a school district or registered nonpublic school, a student's participation in the make- up credit program must be approved by a school- based panel consisting of, at a minimum, the principal, a teacher in the subject area for which the student must make up credit, and a guidance director or other administrator. To receive credit, the student must successfully complete the make- up credit program and demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes for the subject, including passing the Regents examination in the subject or other assessment required for graduation, if applicable. A make- up program may include but is not limited to repeating an entire course, a summer school program, receiving intensive instruction in the deficiency area or digital learning (online study). If the school wishes to offer an online program of study it must be comparable in scope and quality to regular classroom instruction, provide for documentation of

5 satisfactory student achievement, and include regular and substantive interaction between the student and the certified teacher supervising or directing the course About this Informational Brief As the proliferation of credit recovery programs occurs, it is imperative that schools and districts evaluate their goals and develop an implementation plan to assist administrators, subject teachers and credit recovery teams to in advance of the selection of any service provider, so as to implement these programs with integrity and fidelity. All credit recovery programs across the country consider a few guiding points which will be discussed in greater detail throughout this brief. This brief aims to provide an insight into credit recovery programs across the United States. To do so, this brief highlights research and programmatic solutions covering the following broad areas: 1. Pre- Implementation of credit recovery programs 2. Implementation of credit recovery programs 3. Post- Implementation of credit recovery programs 4. Recommendations for New York State

6 2. Pre- Implementation of credit recovery programs 2.1 Infrastructure States and districts have been working very hard to reduce the Digital Divide and several technology grants have been established to help schools ensure that more students have access to the tools required to be successful in school. Before implementing programs that require extensive use of technology, it is important to evaluate the degree to which students have access to the necessary technology; that support staff are in place who will be able to maintain these technologies; and that teachers and students have the requisite training to ensure that technology is being used effectively to improve instruction. Hardware and Software Schools most often have technology indicators at the local level to determine how technology is being used in the classroom. However, it has been reported by some schools that limitations of hardware and software have been big challenges in the implementation of their credit recovery programs. Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista, California had tried several options to provide credit recovery options for their students but they had not found a program that would keep students engaged as well as promote attendance. It was then that they looked to PLATO Learning for help with setting up a credit recovery program. During previous attempts at implementing similar programs, the school had identified that they also needed infrastructure support to be successful. The PLATO Learning support team identified hardware components that were causing problems and helped the school find cost- effective fixes. If individual schools are choosing to set up their own credit recovery program, then it is advisable that they refer to hardware and software requirements that are often shared by vendors who offer similar programs to the custom solution. The Georgia Department of Education has a website that highlights the main technical requirements for schools and districts interested in implementing credit recovery programs, though specific courses may require additional software. Most vendors make sure that this additional information for each course is noted in the course catalog and within the course itself. Other best practices include budgeting for any additional costs in software upgrades to run specific courses and communicating whether this will be free of charge or come at a cost to students. Below is a table outlining technology requirements for online courses used in credit recovery programs as outlined by the Georgia Department of Education.

7 Windows Mac Operating System Windows XP or later OS 10.4 or higher Browser Mozilla Firefox is the preferred browser, but our courses are accessible on a variety of modern browsers including Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. Be sure to use the most recent version of your browser. Mozilla Firefox is the preferred browser, but our courses are accessible on a variety of modern browsers including Chrome and Safari. Be sure to use the most recent version of your browser. Browser Plug- ins Media Players Productivity Software Audio Internet Speed Video Sun Java Runtime Environment (JRE) JavaScript and cookies The browser used for course access should be JavaScript enabled and have updated versions of Adobe Reader, Sun Java, and Adobe Shockwave player. Courses use common media files such as.mp3,.m4v, and.mov. Students need software to open media files such as an updated version of Windows Media Player or QuickTime. Students need office productivity software to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. This can be accomplished with software like Microsoft Office or Open Office. Alternatively, web- based tools like Google Docs or Zoho can also be used. Speakers and microphone or headset. 56k modem required. DSL or cable modem recommended. SVGA monitor with a resolution of at least 800 x 600. JRE v1.4.2, 1.5.x, 1.6.x are required to run the equation editor. JRE 1.6 update 13 is recommended. Both JavaScript and cookies must be enabled. These different sites may also use cookies to help personalize the online experience as in the case of the Georgia Credit Recovery website. If you register with the Georgia Credit Recovery site or services, a cookie helps Georgia Credit Recovery recall your specific information on subsequent visits (Georgia Department of Education, 2011). Schools and districts looking to choose a vendor to implement their credit recovery program, will most likely need to consider this as many vendors collect such information

8 about the computer hardware and software, which includes browser types, IP addresses, domain names as well as some personally identifiable information. Staff In several schools and districts, administrators and credit recovery teams constantly monitor progress reports and teacher recommendations to identify students who will soon be at risk, so as to be proactive in communicating the availability and importance of credit recovery to students and their parents. Teachers who facilitate credit recovery programs spend longer hours at school during the workweek and on many Saturdays. To countermand the demand on such teachers, teachers are provided additional pay, which available through the extra- duty pay program at the Sweetwater Union High School District (Washburn, 2004). Additionally, the instructors at the Omaha Schools are paid an additional $24.50 per hour for their credit recovery work (Dessoff A., 2009) Administrators and credit recovery teams have found that students are better supported in their credit recovery efforts if the teachers are available for face- to- face support. Such supports have been reported to help students feel comfortable in their learning and build relationships between teachers and students that promote learning. 2.2 Eligibility determinations for students entering credit recovery programs In the spring of 2010, the City School District of Albany identified digital learning as a strategy for improving student achievement and identified credit recovery, as a major need. To this end, the district chose APEX Learning as the solution to their credit recovery needs. The program has a component known as Digital Academies, which offers unit recovery, preemptive remediation for students failing unit assessments before the need for credit recovery. They also offer traditional credit recovery (independent, in- school, evenings or summer), original credit, homebound and alternative education, as well as a summer jump- start program for students entering high school lacking basic English and math skills needed for grade- level success (Communications Office of the City School District of Albany, 2010). In this way, the school district provides students with several options for remedial education before they fail an entire course. Other districts have different ideas about which students should be enrolled in the school s credit recovery program. The Rochester City School District (RCSD) ran a successful pilot in year one of their credit recovery efforts. They targeted: Seniors who need one or two credits to graduate on time Sophomores and Freshmen behind 1 or more credits Students at risk of dropping out of school to bring students back to school Summer School students Students who have an upcoming Regents examination

9 The program had the following features: Meaningful contact with an appropriately certified RCSD Teacher Limitations on the number of courses students can take at a time Parameters for student participation and engagement in the courses tied to consequences The Alabama Department of Education follows a more formal process of identifying students who are likely to have difficulty graduating. They have a system in place, which call for Student Failure Reports to be submitted by teachers and Guidelines Agreement documents to be submitted in by parents and students after which students will be provided with admission into the credit recovery programs. 2.3 Setting up a credit recovery team to implement these programs As an initial step, each school should set up a Credit Recovery Team, whose members would include but not be limited to administrators, teachers and guidance counselors within the school community. This committee would help the school and district in providing support and direction to teachers implementing the program. Consistency in these programs is very important to provide students with stability as they work to make- up failed credits. The team also decides policies for placing students within the program and carries out the task of making sure each student has been properly enrolled and ready to begin their course. There is great promise for using credit recovery programs across the country, however each school has to have a strong pre- implementation strategy in place to ensure program objectives are met. Several successful programs had the following staff as part of their credit recovery teams: Certified subject teachers who can review the curriculum or develop the course content as the school decides Tutors/instructional assistants for a blended learning approach to help students who are struggling with the certain concepts as well as act as motivators Local school counselor in case behavioral or motivational issues arise Special Education teacher to help students with Individual Education Plans Program coordinator who orients the students, set expectations, assists with enrollment Technical Support team Approaches to setting up credit recovery teams have varied for different program implementations. Some schools have very few students enrolled in each course and thus have only one subject teacher to tutor across multiple courses. Based on each school s program of choice there is a need for teachers and mentors to provide face time support.

10 In Tigua Independent Schools, El Paso, Texas (Levy, 2011), the credit recovery program was designed as a 1:1 laptop credit recovery program for migrant students whose parents worked at the local farms in El Paso and southern New Mexico. These schools provided some of their own funding for this program and received matching federal dollars from the Region 19 Regional Educational Service Center. They identified NovaNET as the online curriculum for their students. To support this program, these schools had a credit recovery team that had teacher- coordinators who met weekly with students enrolled in online courses to be able to provide support and monitor student progress. There were also program coordinators who looked at students results at the macro level in order to evaluate if the program was beneficial for students. These coordinators review all the NovaNET reports as well as student transcripts so that they could assist students in heightening their motivation levels and work on goal setting. After conducting interviews with students in the program, one teacher from the Tigua High School described the program as needing more continuity and the need to offer sessions about self- esteem building for students, goal setting and developing technology skills during the weekly meetings. There was also a need for the adoption of a regular schedule so that the district would have the desired attention from students at these meetings. 2.4 Curriculum development for credit recovery programs There are many vendors that offer credit recovery services throughout the country. These vendors each have their own criteria that make up their credit recovery curriculum, yet some of the criteria are the same across the board. An important aspect of choosing a credit recovery vendor is to find a credit recovery program that is matched to the specific program goals of each school or district. For the purposes of this brief, we have chosen three vendors to study based on their presence within schools across the country and particularly within NYS. It is imperative that schools or districts with individualized goals distinguish between the vendors to arrive at the program that best suits the school or district needs. It should be noted that the New York Comprehensive Center has not studied these vendors with the aim to evaluate their worth or recommend one or the other to the state. These interviews have allowed us to synthesize and present information and data communicated to New York Comprehensive Center staff via structured interviews. Educational Technology Team members conducted three interviews with Apex Learning, Aventa Learning, and Florida Virtual School lasting roughly two hours each using the same interview protocol (Appendix A). The information in the tables below, which is representative of our conversations, provides schools and districts with the first step in selecting and implementing a credit recovery program. Schools and districts should evaluate your their standing against these parameters and choose a vendor accordingly or enhance their individual credit recovery solution to include the missing pieces. The best practices section of each category below is highlighted to help guide a district in selecting and implementing a credit recovery program. Full responses to each interview can be found in Appendix B (Apex Learning), Appendix C (Aventa Learning), and Appendix D

11 (Florida Virtual School). For further information, please contact the New York Comprehensive Center. When considering a credit recovery program, there are some guiding points that should be kept in mind: 1. What should be included or provided in the basic course information? What to consider? Time commitment of the course, the instructional format, and the course length. Standards alignment of the course and the process used to align the courses to the standards. The content areas for which the credit recovery program has offerings and the usual delivery method of the program (synchronous or asynchronous). Format of courses for an online or blended model, or the flexibility of the program to be delivered through both methods. The provision of diagnostic tests to check for students prior knowledge of material in the selected subject area prior to course participation. Student progress and activity tracking throughout the course. The credit recovery offerings are linked to state and national standards as well as college and career readiness standards. Interactivity between students and the content in each course. Why? To ensure that the delivery and timeframe fit into that of the school s or district s plan for program implementation. To reveal whether students have learned what the school or district expects them to learn and so that the assessments, learning objectives, and instructional strategies reinforce one another. To be able to cater to a variety of student needs and learning styles. To be able to ensure a high level of collaboration and student engagement within the course. To be able to assess student s prior knowledge of a subject and have students take courses to address specific gaps in knowledge in the subject area. To be able to support students during and after the course. If the progress reports indicate that students. This information should be available to teachers, administrators, mentors, students, parents, and others designated as stakeholders in that student s education. To be able to ensure that credit recovery courses are not operating in a silo but are contributing towards college and career readiness goals, which help students, become successful in the workforce. To ensure that students are being kept actively engaged.

12 2. What is available in terms of interaction and support? What to consider? Technical support infrastructure, which includes a student and teacher helpline. Response time provided and adhered to for all queries. Provisions in place to support course content. Peer interaction is an impactful strategy for student engagement in courses. Teachers/administrators/credit recovery team training prior to facilitation of the online courses. Student success rates. Teacher involvement throughout the program. Why? A strong technical support system which includes the following features: , dedicated customer support operating within the school day and after preferably web based to ensure efficiency, a ticket system, phone. This is a key priority and should be integrated with the school or district technical support infrastructure to meet technology requirements/challenges prior to the start of the program. To be able to ensure that students see the benefits of these credit recovery courses, and also so that their work or progression is not hindered. Instructional support tools like calculators, online dictionaries, etc. that students would have access to will help students interact better with the course content. Students will be able to have deeper engagement with the course content as well as feel as though they are part of a small learning community, where they can motivate each other to meet program goals. Proper training is imperative to the success of the credit recovery program to ensure that teachers develop skills to optimize instruction and integrate credit recovery programs into the traditional curriculum. To evaluate the rigor of the program and the appropriateness of the program for students in the school or district To ensure the program is being implemented with fidelity and that students are fully supported thus making the program more effective.

13 3. What should schools and districts consider with regards to program implementation? What to consider? Cost per student/credit. Technology requirements. If new credit recovery courses will be available from the vendor of choice in the future/near future. Provisions offered for Students with Disabilities. Why? An important factor to consider as part of the district s budget. A district will need to know the requirements that they already meet, and those that they may have to purchase so that these technology resources can be included in planning and budgeting processes. To be able to help the school or district continuously grow their district credit recovery program. To maximize individualism and accommodate Students with Disabilities, programs should comply with all state and federal regulations and include such features as audio support, text boxes, and roll over glossaries making the content engaging, accessible, and connected. Different courses or accommodations for English Language Learners (ELLs). Attrition rates. Challenges that students and teachers face with the courses. To allow ELLs to meaningfully participate (show what they know) in state assessments (increased validity and reliability) and to address unique linguistic and socio- cultural needs of ELLs without altering the test construct. If the vendor can provide information about how many students are in the program versus how many cannot continue with it and the reasons for the same, then this will give schools an idea about why a credit recovery solution might not be working. Student and teacher feedback is very important to help inform current and future delivery of the course.

14 3. Implementation of credit recovery programs 3.1. Delivery Method Credit recovery programs have morphed from summer school programs to just- in- time programs through the incorporation of strong online components. These programs help students access the content anywhere and at anytime. Some schools have adopted online- only programs to serve the needs of their students. Others choose a blended approach which focus on the strengths of the online course delivery method as well as those of face- to- face instruction. In some cases, there are schools that opt for a completely face- to- face model. Though, in the present day these programs are very few and far between, if non- existent at all. This brief, which focuses on programs that have an online component, will focus on elaborating on the fully online models and the blended models. Online models: These are programs in which schools opt for a curriculum that is fully online. Virtual schools have all the teacher support online and have student support portals, which are virtual in nature. These programs offer no opportunity for interaction with the subject area teachers in person. There is no supervision of the work being done by the students. Students in these programs typically work on their course work at home or in school after school hours. Within these models there are courses that are either fully facilitated or have a facilitator who only participates at certain points during the course. The fully facilitated courses ensure students are learning a deeply engaging and collaborative learning experience. There are multiple opportunities to interact with the educator as well as other students to be able to share different perspectives and enhance students learning. The educator then gives students live feedback as well as an explanation of ways a students can be successful in mastering the content. With multiple feedback opportunities within the course structure, students can be sure that the course is being kept relevant and is adaptive to student needs as they arise. The goal of courses, which do not have a full time facilitator, is to provide students the opportunity to learn both in a synchronous and asynchronous learning environment. Students will have some time to explore modules on their own as well as the chance to participate in facilitated discussions and share perspectives with other students. These courses require students to take greater responsibility for going through the asynchronous course elements before participating in the synchronous opportunities as part of the course. The Project MAS study (Levy, 2011) identified the strong need for some face- to- face interaction to help motivate students. Most students enrolled in credit recovery programs are already experiencing lower confidence levels and need some support and encouragement to continue with their education. For all these reasons, most schools consider the blended learning approach. Blended Learning Models: These models incorporate the best features of online education and face- to- face instruction. The classroom interactions provide students with support and

15 encouragement to stay on track with the program. The online course components make it easy for students to complete their work independently. This online coursework also has options for students to reach out to a teacher in case they are struggling with some aspects of the content. A large suburban high school in Ohio began considering credit recovery to provide an alternative path to graduation for freshmen that had failed at least one course (Franco & Patel, 2011). The school developed a program where online and traditional curricula were provided. The school realized that they were able to support their students by provide virtual learning options. In addition to providing online course content, key features of success for high school students include training students on self- regulative strategies in order for students to take charge of their learning process. Even though several benefits were identified for the use of online programs with students, there was a definitive need for face- to- face interaction. In a school district in Michigan, the credit recovery team determined the number of sessions that students would need for credit recovery purposes. One half of every session is spent learning and mastering key concepts face- to- face with a subject teacher. The second half of the session, students with the online component of the course and the teachers are always present to clarify any doubts that may arise (Dessoff, 2009) Characteristics of credit recovery programs While many schools and districts have already piloted credit recovery programs, few would say that they have had great success with their efforts. There are a myriad of questions that remain unanswered; however, looking at the characteristics of different program implementations can help other schools and districts evaluate what they can borrow from such credit recovery program implementations and what lessons they can learn to better implement their own programs. The La Vergne High School, part of the Rutherford County Schools in Tennessee, have a system in place to determine which students qualify to enter credit recovery programs and what they must do to successfully recover the credit. This school program runs on the belief that students should be offered credit recovery options but cannot be required to participate in such programs. All students are eligible to complete an application for the credit recovery program, if they have failed a semester of a class with a grade between 50 and 69. It is also a requirement that each student should have made a diligent effort to submit all graded assignments for each six weeks of the semester. All this work must be submitted before recovery can begin. In this way, the school district is ensuring that each student approaches the program with diligence and is disciplined in their effort to recover credits. In order to successfully recover credit, students have several options to attend the recovery classes; however, there are no classes offered during the summer. The classroom teacher, for students who show interest in the credit recovery options and are approved for participation, identifies the objectives not mastered and the school recovery facilitator assigns students the courses they have to complete to recover the objectives. The program has also strictly defined all the instances when a student can be removed from the

16 recovery program. Success is decided as a score of 70 or above on mastery tests given in recovery lessons (La Vergne High School, Counseling Department, 2011). Another example, is the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS), which is a unique program in that it has a very strong focus on the role of the teacher within the credit recovery program. NCVPS has a program whereby teachers work with each student individually to design individualized education plans to ensure that the courses meet each individual student s needs. This process also helps the teachers better understand each student s personal situation in a way that allows then to motivate their students to continue in the program and graduate with their peers. Below is the NCVPS Credit Recovery Unit Instructional Flow (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2010) For each Course UNIT or MODULE Going around this flow chart in a circle, the following information: NC certified teacher guides student through process; teacher grades all work and answers all s every 24 hours; teachers work weekly with students one- on- one in the live classroom; student works at his own pace Student takes unit pre- assessment Student scores an 80 or better on unit pre- assessment Student scores below an 80 on the unit pre- assessment Student moves on to next unit s pre- assessment Student begins interactive instruction and practice as guided by teacher Student does not show mastery on assignment Student completes Mastery assignment(s) Student masters assignment with an 80 or better Student remediates with new material and with teacher and returns to mastery assignment Student moves to next Mastery assignment or to next unit

17 3.3 Role of the teacher in supporting student achievement Credit recovery programs offer students the chance to learn at their own pace, make their own schedules, and receive a more individualized education to help them master concepts so that they can perform better in the courses for which they were not able to originally receive credit. However, the role of a teacher in such a process is key to the success of the program. A teacher at the Hudson High School in Pasco County, Florida who runs the school s credit recovery has exemplified this through the identification of a few aspects that made their program successful. The credit recovery team began by informing students what they needed to do to be successful in the credit recovery program. In addition to this, the credit recovery team identified the areas in which a student is having difficulty. This team noticed that the students, who would be facing similar issues in the identified areas, would also face such issues in their other regular courses as well. Therefore, to ensure that students didn t lose their motivation, the team informed the other subject teachers about the student s areas of difficulty within the credit recovery programs so that the teacher could help each student more effectively during class time. Credit recovery sessions can be very demanding on teachers, as the teacher has to work with a whole group of students who are struggling. In any given session, the students typically share the reason why they found hard to pass the course in the first place. Teachers in the credit recovery programs have to be good listeners to be able to identify whether the students only have an academic problem or whether they are having an issue they cannot handle at home. The teacher should be able to refer the students with problems at home to the school counselor. Teachers also have a very strong role in motivating students to continue with their credit recovery course. Perseverance is a constant struggle for most students in the program. Once the teacher gets to know each student well, s/he will know how to motivate an individual student to ensure that they have the inclination to complete the program (Tampa Bay Times, 2011). Having conversations with students about college and career readiness will help students in credit recovery programs understand the importance of high school graduation. Teachers who provide students with constant motivation will be able to build stronger relationships that will help students to be motivated throughout the course. Teachers in credit recovery programs have found that students really want their high school diplomas and are prepared to put in the effort to work harder at earning missed credits. For all these reasons, teachers play a very important role in ensuring that students actions are consistent with their goals. 3.4 Effectiveness or rigor of the program Data reported by schools suggests that credit- recovery programs may have positive effects on earning credits toward graduation, attendance rates, and passing rates on state standardized tests (e.g., Trautman & Lawrence, 2004). This raise in test scores may be attributed to learning in a new modality (e.g. competency based learning, online learning,

18 much smaller class size) which students that are in need of credit recovery may respond to more favorably. This has been shown to be true empirically by a study done in Oak Glen High School in West Virginia where students who were in need of credit recovery participated in an educational opportunity program once a week that was both competency based and had a very small class size. After the implementation of this program, graduation rates at Oak Glen rose to 90% as students successfully reached the standards to be promoted to the next grade through the program (Bottoms, 2007) In addition in a study conducted by Pape, Revenaugh, and Wicks (2007) students at the Virtual High School that were using an online learning system similar to those given to students in credit recovery programs saw an increase in both promotion rates of the students who were recovering credits in summer school, and a higher than average pass rate on the Advanced Placement (66% versus the national average of 62%) indicating the effectiveness of these online programs. However all of these studies suggest that there is little to no research on the rigor of these credit recovery programs compared to traditional programs, only ex post facto research on the effectiveness of these programs. This may be due to a lack of standardization of credit recovery programs as each district may utilize a different modality of credit recovery course work.

19 4. Post- Implementation 4.1 Credit recovery and graduation rates Data released by Boston Public Schools (BPS) show the district s four- year graduation rate continues to climb to a record high. Of the students who entered high school in the school year, 64.4 percent graduated within four years. This 2011 data is an increase of 1.2 percentage points from 2010 and more than 6 percentage points since The data also show the district s graduation rate is 6 percentage points higher as a result of credit recovery initiative (BPS Communications Office, 2012). The exact reasons for this increase in graduation rate is not very clear but there is a combination of aspects that make the BPS Credit Skills Recovery Program (CSRP) a successful one (UMass Donahue Institute, Research and Evaluation Group, 2012). Relationship building with the students was one of the key findings from the implementation of CSRP that contributed to the success of the program. Teachers went beyond their official duties to spend time with the students to provide support and encouragement. There were case managers who were in constant contact with students even after the course, during the summer to make sure that their progress was being monitored and to provide support around challenges students were facing. Apex Learning was chosen as the online course provider for the program and students and teachers both rated the quality and rigor of the curriculum as being very high. Students enrolled in fewer CSRP courses had higher rates of completion. Students felt that the history, English and foreign language courses were easier to complete than the math and science courses. Therefore, knowing this, the program coordinates ensured that additional supports were available. All these efforts, helped student improve their study skills in general, motivated them to continue learning and ensured that students continued to do well in their other courses, thus bringing them back on the path to graduation. 4.2 Credit recovery and college and career readiness The Kentucky Department of Education developed a unified strategy to reduce college remediation rates of high school graduates by at least 50percent by 2014 from the rates in 2010 (Kentucky Department of Education and Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 2010). To achieve this goal, they developed four key strategies. One of which was to provide targeted interventions for all students who are not college and career ready. This is where the credit recovery courses became an important focus. The actions, expected outcome and impact measures have been outlined by the Kentucky Department of Education as follows:

20 Action(s) Expected Outcomes Impact Measure Online courses with multiple Enrollment data delivery modes (e.g. online assessment data. facilitated, online modularized and hybrid) will be offered. Create online credit recovery courses for all courses considered as minimum graduation requirements. Professional development, with shared resources and information on best- practice sites for credit recovery, will be available to educators statewide. Information on resources, professional development, and best- practice sites will be accessible to all districts. Documentation of district access to resources. Credit recovery has a focus on helping students stay in school and graduate with their class. These programs are an essential component of college and career readiness transition efforts and help provide students with an opportunity to participate in courses through guided study.

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