How to Catch Up in High School: Online Credit Recovery


Amanda Cunningham
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 3:45pm

Estimates vary, but each year more than a million students drop out of high school. One key reason is that students fall behind on credits and, once behind, they see little hope of catching up. So, keeping students from falling behind their peers is a significant challenge that impacts every high school in America. This challenge can be mitigated through online high school credit recovery.

Why Do These Students Fall Behind?

Specific life events – Sometimes students are impacted by life events that cause them to miss school, or direct their attention outside of the classroom. Some examples include when students experience a family move, an extended illness, or a change in family dynamics.

When these major changes happen, many times students are unable to complete courses and lose course credit. Also, the number of high school students who leave school because they need to work to support their family is more prevalent than we think.

Transitions – Transitions are hard for most of us, and the change from middle school to high school is no exception. More dropouts happen in the freshman year than any other. Further, some students entering high school do not see the relevance or importance of school in their daily lives and do not invest in their education, while others do not manage the size and complexity of high school well.

The reasons are many, but the effect is the same. Some have a poor start and come around in the second semester, but by then, they are already behind in credits.

Overage freshmen – These students haven’t done well in school and are entering their freshman year at an age older than their classmates. They are not technically behind in credits, but they feel behind even before they start and often carry a bad reputation—sometimes well earned—with classmates and teachers that can hinder their success.

Regardless of the reason, falling behind is a significant problem. Statistically speaking, if a student is behind, the probability of graduating plummets—even if they’re only behind by two or three half-credits. This not only deprives the student of a high school diploma, which is a basic qualification in today’s workforce, but also impacts a school and school district’s graduation rates, which is a direct indicator of the school’s performance.

How Can a School Help These Students?

Offering a way to catch up and establishing a pattern of success is a start.

Here are some things schools can do to get students up to speed:

online credit recovery

Credit recovery opportunities –  Online high school credit recovery is effective for students who have been impacted by specific, short-term life events. Credit recovery courses present the opportunity to allow students who have fallen behind to take the courses they need to get the credits they dropped, while concurrently maintaining enrollment in the courses necessary to stay on pace for graduation.

Teach students how to learn – Teaching students how to “do school” can be effective for those who have had a poor transition to high school, including overage freshmen. These students need to learn how to learn and negotiate what it means to be successful in high school. For many, this is a difficult skill that does not come without direct instruction.

Some students in these situations benefit from simplifying school. That can involve creating a simplified environment, such as a smaller school within a school, taking one class at a time, or reducing the number of teacher relationships they need to manage.

Offering credit by proficiency – School and state laws have traditionally required students to go to class for a certain number of days and hours—known as Carnegie Units. To advance in a grade, they need to be in class for a certain number of hours and need to make a passing grade. Credit by proficiency eliminates the calendar and instead allows the student to advance when they’ve finished a task or proven proficiency in course standards. More and more states are allowing—even requiring—this option.

Credit by proficiency is similar to “open entry and open exit” programs in community colleges that have been in place for many years. It is also referred to as self-paced, mastery learning. This practice is greatly utilized through online credit recovery.

Managing relationships – Students who have gotten behind in credits are usually not very good at building relationships with school teachers and administrators. Unfortunately, in many cases these relationships hold everything together and keep a student on a path to success. By identifying the teachers who are “student focused” and invested in each student’s success, schools can bring together students who are falling behind and the educators who are capable of building a bridge to connect with them.

Instituting freshmen academies – With the highest percentage of dropouts occurring freshman year, a freshmen academy is a proven approach that can be a lifeline to academic success. These programs focus on teaching organizational skills and attitudes needed to be successful students. This is a prevention strategy focused on keeping freshman on track. For those high risk students entering high school, some freshman academies are even offered away from the main student body.

Online Learning: An Essential Toolonline credit recovery

A key element of these strategies to help students who fall behind are online solutions that can support credit recovery, credit by proficiency, self-paced mastery learning, and mediating teacher-student relationships.

Online high school credit recovery can:

  • Be available anytime and anywhere making it useful for both traditional and blended learning.
  • Enable students to take classes through credit recovery to catch up while still maintaining a full course load.
  • Help students that are forced to miss school due to illness or travel.
  • Allow the teacher to focus on the student and on teaching them how to be a successful student, while the online learning credit recovery manages the course content.

Students falling behind in credits are a serious issue with significant consequences for students, schools, school districts, and America as a whole. However, there are strategies that can help get these students get back up to speed. Online learning and online high school credit recovery is an effective tool for implementing these strategies and getting students caught up with their classmates.


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