As school districts found their footing after quickly pivoting to online learning at the start of the pandemic, many have successfully put academic interventions into action to help students pass their core courses. Yet, credit recovery continues to be a sticking point for schools, especially those that serve children from low-income districts, multilingual students, and students with special needs.
Today’s schools need lightning-quick reflexes and a recovery team at the ready to catch a student before they stumble. Without an immediate response to lost learning, high school students in particular have little time to bounce back.
As Robin Lake of the University of Washington Bothell explained to The New York Times, “One year of bad grades can change the life trajectory of a high school student. Just as important, a failing grade means the student did not master the course content and will likely struggle for coming years without a lot of extra support.”
In addition, students with failing grades have less access to advanced and college prep courses, and freshmen who fail more than one core class are three times less likely to graduate.
Choosing the best digital curriculum for your students
In line with the COVID relief law, districts are required to direct at least 20 percent of their Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to lost learning time. With increasing failure rates in the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023, schools are expanding credit recovery programs in innovative ways – from building robust summer programs to adding fifth-year programs to support graduation goals.
Especially important to educators is having the ability to launch a high-quality, effective program when faced with limited staff, space, and time. Regardless of the challenges in front of you, it is possible to propel your credit recovery program to new heights by ensuring the credit recovery curriculum you land on hits four important criteria:
- A balance of rigor and support – The right credit recovery curriculum shouldn’t just remediate learning gaps or require students to repeat skills they’ve already mastered – it should be built with scaffolds and intentional support that prepare them for the next class in their progression toward graduation. Through guided discovery, students reach a deeper understanding of each foundational topic, and as the lessons become more complex, they become more confident in their ability to apply their knowledge in a variety of contexts.
- Flexibility to fit each student’s needs – COVID has shown that a traditional graduation pathway doesn’t work for everyone. Learning interruptions due to no fault of the student, from an illness to a family emergency, may require a district to adjust credit recovery around a student’s schedule rather than the standard school day. Other students may struggle in a traditional classroom but thrive in a remote environment.
Credit recovery curriculum must meet a student where they’re at in the moment and immediately adapt to how they learn, whether that’s in-person, hybrid, or virtual. In addition, online courses should help struggling students master a particular core skill or unit so they don’t fall behind and failing students work toward whole course recovery so they can progress to the next class.
- Options when a teacher is needed – According to the Washington Post, the current teacher shortage will continue to impact districts even when the pandemic plateaus. In Illinois alone, 77 percent of superintendents say the crisis is getting worse with no signs of slowing down in the next two years. Educators are understandably overwhelmed, trying to balance teaching their classes while ensuring struggling students stay on course to graduation.
Apex Learning is one curriculum provider dedicated to helping districts expand credit recovery programs even if they don’t have staff available. Through Apex Learning Virtual School (ALVS), students can take district-approved online courses that meet state standards and are led by qualified instructors. ALVS teachers provide ongoing virtual instruction and support as well as monitor your students’ progress to ensure their success.
- Proof it works – Any digital curriculum company can say their solution produces results, but one that backs up their promise with a deep library of efficacy studies supporting the effectiveness of their courses is the provider you want to partner with. And when those studies include Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) research as required by select federal grants, you can feel confident your credit recovery invention will improve student performance.
If you’re ready to address lost learning time with your ESSER funding and get your students back on track to graduation, contact Apex Learning today for more information on our credit recovery solutions and efficacy studies.