Research shows

A look at credit recovery results

New research finds that high school students who have failed algebra and need to make up their grades get better short-term results if they take a credit recovery class in person. But over the longer term, students who take the in-person class are no more likely to graduate on time than those who took an online credit-recovery course.

Elaine Allensworth and Valerie Michelman of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research along with Peggy Clements, Jessica Heppen, Jordan Rickles, Nicholas Sorensen, Suzanne Taylor and Kirk Walters of the American Institutes of Research studied the effects of online credit recovery on 1,200 students at 17 Chicago high schools. The 9th-graders, about half of whom had pre-existing math and reading deficits, had failed algebra during the school year and were randomly assigned to either an in-person or online class that lasted three weeks and included about 60 hours of instruction. Afterward, all 1,200 of the students took a test that consisted of items from the National Assessment of Education Progress’ algebra exam.

On average, students in the online course could correctly answer 38 percent of the test items, while students in the in-person class answered 40 percent of the items correctly. Thirty-one percent of the students in the online course earned an A, B or C grade compared with 53 percent of the students who took the class in person. The lower grades for online students translated into significantly lower credit-recovery rates: Only 66 percent of online students made up credits, versus 76 percent of in-person students.

There were, however, no significant differences in on-time graduation rates between the two groups of students or in their pass rates in subsequent math classes. In both groups, just 47 percent of the students graduated from high school in four years.

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