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Credit Recovery and Preparation During Tough Economic Times in Santa Maria, CA

Credit Recovery and Preparation During Tough Economic Times in Santa Maria, CA
School Name and Location: 
Ernest Righetti High School
The Challenge: 

Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria, California is a comprehensive high school with more than 2,100 students. The area’s small urban core and rural farming economy produces a majority-minority population where half of the students qualify as economically disadvantaged.

After a history of centralizing credit recovery, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District gave the responsibility back to individual schools in 2009. It was left to Righetti High School to come up with innovative ways to increase its graduation rate while having to work within a budget that was drastically slashed in the economic downturn.

“We needed a program that helped students make up failed credits and increase the graduation rate while keeping them at their home school,” recounted Righetti intervention lab specialist Cindy Merlo. “We created On-Track Credit Recovery (OTCR) as an after-school program using modified Plato Courseware courses.” 

How They Did it: 

Since 2009, Righetti High School has been committed to providing at-risk students with as many options as possible. Accordingly, it has developed a multifaceted approach to credit recovery.

The OTCR program is the first option for students falling behind to stay on track and is available to students from 7:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening at the school’s intervention lab. Approximately 175 students are currently enrolled in OTCR and are using Plato Courseware courses to complete credits in core and certain required elective classes. Plato Courseware courses are also available through OTCR over the summer and through the local library’s homeschool program.

Righetti High School also offers a credit recovery option for students needing more in-class direction. “In 2011, we needed a more structured atmosphere for students who had three or more courses to make up, so we created our Intervention Through Technology (ITT) course with the help of our business department,” explained Merlo. “Those students who are considerably behind are enrolled in this 50-minute, semester-long course in place of one of their electives.”

Righetti High School has also turned to Edmentum to address a lack of student success on California’s math and reading state assessments. The school utilizes Edmentum Assessments' Test Packs to guide the instruction of its test-prep classes for students who have previously struggled on the assessments. This program is available to students in every grade level, including those who need to pass the tests in order to graduate.

These programs can only be made possible through Plato Courseware’s comprehensive course catalog, its ability to be customized to the needs of the school or district, and an engaging learning environment that helps support learners as they work through their prescribed curriculum. Additionally, the engaging nature of Plato Courseware’s courses lends itself to many students progressing through Righetti High School’s programs.


Since 2009, the number of students at Righetti High School who are enrolled in the Plato Courseware courses has steadily increased with the addition of the ITT courses and widening availability of summer school options. There are now three ITT courses each semester, serving 75 students. In 2014, 141 students took part in the summer school program, completing 262 courses over a four-week period.

Righetti High School’s overall graduation rate now surpasses the district average by almost 10 points. “In the first year of the OTCR program in 2009, our graduation rate increased from 91 percent to 94,” said Merlo. “Over the course of the last five years, we’ve had a total of 416 seniors enrolled in the program; 407 of those students have since graduated, giving the program as a whole a graduation rate of 98 percent.”

For Merlo, it’s also the personal stories that make the undertaking worth it. She remembers meeting one boy who was already 65 units behind in just his sophomore year: “For the next two and a half years, he worked with me for an hour every day. At his graduation party, he wrapped up all of his report cards from OTCR and gave them to his mom as a gift.”

The Future: 

The staff of Righetti High School is busy preparing for a boundary change that will increase the school’s enrollment from 2,100 students to nearly 2,500. For those in need of credit recovery, the On-Track Credit Recovery program will continue to provide added support.

Ernest Righetti High School recently gave a demonstration of its proposed building design concept, titled “Classroom of the Future.” However, if you ask the more-than-400 graduates of the Plato Courseware–powered OTCR program, they might argue that they were already there.

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