One of the biggest challenges facing educators, especially in urban districts, is declining graduation rates. This is a particularly serious issue, not only for the students who miss out on vital opportunities when they fail to graduate from high school, but it is also challenging for schools and districts that are held accountable.
In order to meet student needs and state benchmarks, a growing number of school districts are turning to online education programs to boost graduation rates. One such district is the Evergreen School District in Clark County, Washington.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ted Feller, Executive Director of Secondary Education for the Evergreen School District, to discuss their online education program and how it’s improving their graduation rates. Here’s what Dr. Feller had to say.
Mr. Feller: We run alternative programs at all four of our high schools and we’ve served about 600 students during this last year. This past summer we offered credit recovery via the online learning program. And this year we are also utilizing it to work with our expelled and our long-term suspended students to maintain their academic progress while they’re removed from school.
Mr. Feller: We measure it on terms of whether students are graduating from high school, whether they are able to work out and be college and career ready upon graduation. So we really measure in terms of our graduation rates and how we are able to be successful there.
We currently have a high school that has one of the top graduation rates in the whole State of Washington—over 96%! When the school board asked the principal how they got that great graduation rate, he attributed it to his academy using the district’s credit recovery program.
This past year alone, three of our seniors who utilized the program would not have graduated without it.
LOTL: Do you have any interesting anecdotes or stories of how the program has helped students from your district?
Mr. Feller: Within our district, we practice a process called instructional rounds. As the person who supervises all the high schools within our district, part of my responsibility is to go and examine the schools and see how they’re doing on a regular basis.
When we were going to one of the high schools on our rounds, we came across the academy that was using the credit recovery curriculum. There was a student who was in his fifth year and—through the program and the great work of that staff—was finally fulfilling all of his graduation requirements. He looked up at us and said, “I would’ve never been able to get here without this program and what it did for me.”
In that program last year, they had 55 seniors and 54 graduated on time. These were all credit deficient students before then.
Students who are falling behind in their coursework don’t have to sacrifice their future or impact a school district’s graduation rates. As the Evergreen District’s success illustrates, utilizing online learning programs for credit recovery can enable school districts to help these students—and students facing suspensions and expulsions—catch up and keep up with their classmates.