Success in Action: Online Credit Recovery Helps Graduation Rates for Special Education Students in One District Soar by 30%

January 13, 2022

For high school students with special needs, failing a class or receiving an incomplete not only impacts them academically, but emotionally as well. As they watch their classmates move ahead as they fall behind, many experience a sense of isolation and a hit to their self-esteem.

Without immediate intervention, a student’s risk of dropping out of school skyrockets. The high school graduation rate for students who receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is 72% – an increase from the years before – but still well below the national graduation rate of 89%.

To help get students back to grade level and on track to graduation, districts across the country have integrated online credit recovery programs into their curriculum. However, simply reteaching students the same lessons they struggled with isn’t enough – virtual learning has to be personalized, robust, and accelerated, exposing students to learning models tailored to their pace and performance.

Constructive virtual learning meets a student where they’re at, allowing teachers to touch on the specific prerequisite skills and tasks necessary to understand new content and place a greater focus on immersing students in complex material needed to meet grade-level goals.

When worksheets and remedial repetition exercises are exchanged for engaging, interactive learning that measures and celebrates one’s progress, students rediscover their confidence in the classroom.

Hendry County Schools finds the right support for student progress

At Clewiston High School in Clewiston, Fla., the graduation rate for students in its Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program mirrored that of the national rate for special education students at 70%. The online credit recovery curriculum Clewiston had in place lacked the support ESE students needed, and it made adhering to IEP and 504 plan guidelines difficult.

ESE teacher (now Clewiston High School assistant principal) Reko Parantha dedicated himself to finding a solution that would minimize his students’ frustrations and give them the same opportunity to succeed as their general education classmates. In 2011, the school district launched a small-scale implementation of Apex Learning specifically for the ESE program.

Almost immediately, Parantha saw the impact of Apex on his students. With its built-in scaffolding and embedded personalized learning tools, Apex filled in critical gaps and accelerated learning, enabling juniors and seniors to successfully recover credits. After the first full year of implementing the program, Clewiston High School raised its ESE graduation rate from 70% to 90%!

For Parantha, seeing more of his students complete their high school journey was everything he hoped for in a new digital curriculum. “I wanted those kids to have the same opportunity to walk across what we call Cane Field (the football stadium), which is a historic graduation ceremony,” he remarked. “It’s a very special thing for the kids in this community.”

Over the next decade, Parantha worked with Hendry County Schools to expand Apex programs, and in June 2021, it became the district-wide solution to meet the needs of all students and teachers. The flexibility of Apex has been key to ensuring a more equitable education during the pandemic. Today, the district uses Apex to provide in-person instruction for credit recovery, provide a blended learning classroom for whole group instruction, and ensure immunocompromised students receive full virtual instruction through Hendry Online Learning Academy.

To learn more about Apex Learning credit recovery solutions and how they can benefit your district, visit

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