Online courses offer students second chance

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Capital News Service
LANSING – School districts in the northern Lower Peninsula and West Michigan are offering credit recovery programs to allow students to make up classes, work for better grades and stay on the right track to graduate from high school.
The goal is to promote student success, Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan said.
Credit recovery is a way for students, who failed or haven’t finished a course, to take the courses during or after school to catch up and prepare for high school graduation.

Rick Seebeck, Gladwin Community Schools superintendent, said his district has been using Plato, a credit recovery program, for the past four years. “Five years ago, kids would fall behind on credits but it wasn’t as big a deal because they had time to make it up.”
Not so now.
The Michigan Merit Curriculum required students entering 8th grade in 2006 to obtain a minimum of 16 credits for graduation, including four years of math and English and three years of science and social studies.
Because every academic year is more demanding and full, students no longer had the flexibility in their schedule to make up for a course that they failed, Seebeck said, “We needed to make sure there was a way for kids to make up this credit, inside and outside the school day.”
Although the Department of Education does not have a role or say in credit recovery programs, Jan Ellis, communications expert for the department, said, “Credit recovery programs serve a valuable purpose for students that are behind either in credits or to increase their knowledge and foundation base.”
Seebeck said Gladwin’s program is subject to the same curriculum standards set by the Department of Education as traditional academic courses.
In addition, a recent report from the department said that state school aid can be used for credit recovery “only when a student has failed a core academic class in math, language arts and science and is attempting to obtain credit necessary for high school completion.”
A part of the School Aid Act provides funding to districts with students who did poorly on MEAP tests in math, reading or science.
That money cannot be used to provide social studies credit, according to the report.
Seebeck said the two biggest challenges with the credit recovery program are the cost and that it is done online.
Gladwin High School has a computer lab with 30 computers, costing about $30,000 every three years and $5,500 annually for software, he said. The school also spends about $7,000 for the extra teachers who oversee the programs during or after school hours.
The other challenge is because the program is online. It is hard in a rural area for students to access computers or the Internet at home, Seebeck said, and “most kids who do badly in school don’t do well online.”
Bruce Lovett, vice president of marketing for institutions at K12, producer of an online learning program for students in in kindergarten through grade 12, said, “The beauty of online learning is that it’s highly individualized to the student.”
The company is based in Virginia.
K12’s program was designed to be engaging and to automatically find trends and learning gaps through built-in assessments that ensure students’ needs are met, Lovett said.
For example, if a student fails geometry, the student may have some basic math learning gaps. Instead of re-taking an identical course, K12 courses allow students to move at their own pace, which includes skipping concepts they already know and focusing on the ones that made them stumble in the first place.
Lovett said expectations need to be set for students so they know how much time will be needed to take and succeed in recovery courses. “Some have never taken an online course, so it’s important to get an introduction to online learning.
“Because we have the teacher included, it’s typically viewed as dramatically more economical than a tradition recovery course, such as summer school,” Lovett said.
He said K12 aligns its courses to state standards and soon will align with the common core federal standard adopted by 46 states for math and language arts.

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