5 Best Practices for Flexible Credit Recovery
Momentum is an important concept to keep in mind when thinking about students’ journeys to graduation. When students experience success early on in their high school careers, they lay a solid foundation in the skills required for the credits they need. Those skills continue to build, and the credits continue to accumulate. Along the way, students will gain confidence in their ability and positive feelings about learning.
Unfortunately, the opposite is usually true as well. For students who get off to a difficult start in high school, the gaps in their skills and knowledge often accumulate, eventually resulting in missed credits and, quite possibly, negative feelings about themselves and school. What can educators do to reverse this kind of trend and help struggling high school students get back on track to graduate? It’s all about offering credit recovery in a format that’s flexible, feasible, and goal focused and one that meets the unique needs of diverse students.
Here are five best practices to develop a learner-centered online credit recovery program in your school or district that will support students in building the positive momentum they need to achieve academic goals and graduation success!
1. Find or create the right learning environment
All students have their own learning style—and the physical environment where they learn can have a big impact on their success. For some students (very frequently those who are at risk or have fallen behind in credits), the traditional classroom is not the right fit. So, when designing your credit recovery program, consider offering students the flexibility of where and when they can complete their assignments.
If your program will be hosted on-site with your own teachers, think about setting up a lab space with distinct areas and varied seating options. For example, dedicate one area to standard computer desks (maybe with a yoga ball or two instead of desk chairs), designate another corner as a reading/writing nook with beanbags and lap desks, find a taller table to use as standing desk, and place larger tables in another area to use as conferencing space for one-on-ones with students.
If possible, consider giving students even more flexibility by offering fully virtual courses that they can complete on their own time and schedule. Independent options provide students with the opportunity to do their work from anywhere—at home or from their favorite coffeeshop, as well as in the classroom—and it can be a great fit for students who live in multigenerational or multifamily households, students who have significant responsibilities outside of school, and even students who are faced with anxiety or other mental health challenges, bullying, or other concerns in the classroom.
2. Offer unit recovery with full credit recovery when possible
In many instances, students aren’t missing entire credits, but they may not fully grasp or understand a particular subject, concept, or skillset within a course. In these cases, forcing students to retake entire classes can be detrimental. They can easily become bored with material they already understand and frustrated by the amount of time and work they are being asked to commit to.
Instead, design your program with the flexibility to offer unit recovery in addition to full credit recovery. By leveraging digital curriculum, you can enable students to revisit specific sections of courses that they have struggled with and fill in knowledge gaps quickly before they fall behind.
If it is not possible to offer unit recovery, virtual courses can help your students recover full credits on a faster timeline. With motivation, dedication, and the right supports, students can make up multiple missed credits in a much shorter timespan than a standard semester. And in some cases, virtual courses can enable them to graduate on time. This can also be a cost-effective solution if your school or district leverages virtual courses offered on a monthly subscription basis.
3. Focus on building relationships and connections
Inevitably, when students are falling behind in credits, it’s concerning. Figuring out the core problem or barrier—family concerns at home, mental health struggles, a learning disability, or anything else—is key to helping students turn the tide. And, the first step to reaching this kind of understanding is building a true relationship with every student in your program. This allows educators to gain rapport with their students, build trust and belonging, and put students at ease to open up about their challenges and needs as they work through their credit recovery assignments.
Whether students are working in person or virtually, make sure that your program prioritizes connections between students and teachers. If you have a credit recovery lab, make sure that it is consistently staffed by educators with expertise in a variety of subjects. Consider assigning each student to a dedicated staff mentor (in addition to the teacher-of-record) to provide ongoing instructional support and accountability for staying on track with assignments. If your program leverages fully virtual courses, make sure to find a provider focused on teacher quality, with clear documentation of their virtual teachers’ certification in your state and well-defined policies regarding interaction with students.
4. Let students learn about the topics they’re most interested in
Lack of engagement is a significant issue for many students who fall behind in credits; they simply aren’t interested in what they’re learning in the classroom and don’t see how it will serve them in the real world. Of course, curricula are in place for a reason, and students need to complete foundational courses. However, offering greater variety in your course catalog—including career and technical education (CTE) options like computer programming, art and design, business, and health sciences—can help reach more students.
Working with an online learning partner can be an effective solution to expand offerings without putting a strain on school resources. Online courses, whether facilitated by teachers in your school or by vendor-provided virtual teachers, offer high-quality options across hundreds of different core, elective, CTE, college and career readiness, and advanced subjects to give students the freedom to learn about the topics that will truly spark their interest and help motivate them to achieve success in the classroom and beyond.
5. Get families involved in students’ learning journeys
The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” may be cliché, but it’s also true. When students are falling behind in credits, engaging their families or caregivers can be a game changer. Family support guarantees that students have another team of cheerleaders at home and provides an additional level of accountability to ensure that they are making progress in their credit recovery courses. Make it a priority to connect with your students’ families as soon as they enter your credit recovery program, and stay in touch on a regular basis after that. By communicating regularly with families, educators can keep at-home support people in the loop about what they can do to help their learner succeed and problem-solve together when challenges arise.
Digital curriculum and virtual courses can play a significant role in the process of engaging families. Look for programs that offer family portals and communication tools so that caregivers can gain insight into their child’s progress and can easily get in touch with teachers as needed.
At Edmentum, we’re proud to partner with thousands of school credit recovery programs across the country to offer a library of over 500 high-quality, research-based online courses designed to help students build the positive learning momentum they need to graduate.
Want to learn more? Check out our programs for flexible credit recovery, or if you need a short-term, fully virtual solution, take a look at cost-effective monthly subscription options available through EdOptions Academy and be sure to download our Credit Recovery Program Planning Guide!