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K-12 Education

Credit Recovery: Helping students make up for lost time

Two years ago, while working as a program officer at the Skillman Foundation, I spoke with Osborn Neighborhood Alliance parent mentors who were volunteering at the Osborn High School Campus. They were helping to “fill in the gap” at the schools, offering additional support to students on the campus to complement the work of the schools’ administrators and teachers. It was through their on-the-ground volunteerism that this issue of credit recovery was first brought to Foundation’s attention.

Credit recovery is the opportunity for students to retake failed classes during summer or after school, which allows students to accelerate their credit attainment so that they can graduate on time with their classmates. This is implemented in several different ways in schools across the city, ranging from online platforms to accelerated classroom instruction, and everything in between.

Graduation Cap

The Osborn parent mentors discovered something startling: many students weren’t attending credit recovery, and as a result they were falling further off-track. Eventually, it would be impossible for students to catch up. Having done some research to understand the scale of this challenge across the Good Neighborhood schools, the Foundation invested in a series of programs that helped reach youth in need of credit recovery. The following is a small sampling of what was learned.

  • Poor school attendance is driving a lot of course failure, particularly in students’ first period courses. Students are having trouble getting to school on time for an array of reasons, including: lack of a reliable transit system, safety concerns (particularly in those dark winter months) that cause students to leave home later, and the fact that many high school students are responsible for getting their younger siblings safely to school. These challenges cause many students to regularly miss their first period class. In order to help mitigate the impact of this trend, some schools intentionally rotate the class schedules so that students are not missing the same class every day.
  • Many students lack accurate records, particularly if they have had more than one school transfer and these have been across different school governance types (DPS, EAA, charter). As a results, students are often unware that they missing specific classes. While credit audits are required to take place in students’ senior year, this is often too late for students to get back on-track.
  • Credit recovery must be made accessible to youth and the demands on their time. For example, if you want students to engage in credit recovery during the summer, you’ve got to find a way to make it work around a summer job. And if you want youth to stay through the evening to earn credits, you have to find a way to help them get safely home when it’s dark outside.

Creating opportunities for youth to have a “second chance” following a course failure is important. However, we must make sure that youth are given every opportunity to succeed the first time; and when a recovery course is needed, it is offered with a rigor that ensures mastery and is completed in a timely fashion so students have sufficient academic grounding to move on to other courses.

Let’s take every opportunity to set our children up for success. Their talent is immense.It is up to us to make sure that this is revealed to the world.

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