A new report from an education research group in Portland, Oregon has found that schools offering in-school structure and support for online students in credit recovery show higher passing rates. The report came out at the same time the Montana Digital Academy decided to add additional "on-the-ground" support for students in the program's online recovery courses.
The report, "Successful Strategies for Providing Online Credit Recovery in Montana," used data from the 2013-14 school year to determine the passing rates varied greatly between schools. However, many schools provided only a small sampling.
"We were really excited to get that validation," said Jason Neiffer, MTDA's assistant director and curriculum director. "It really kind of takes a village to teach an online student. There's lots of ways we can provide some efficiencies, but in the end, it takes a healthy group effort."
There are several such courses offered at MDTA. While some are electives for students who attend a school that does not offer the course, others are remedial courses. Previous reports from several other districts found students in credit recovery courses were having a difficult time passing them.
The average passing rate for the 96 schools that have students who participate in online credit recovery courses is 60%. While the majority of schools had scores below that, they also had very small enrollment numbers.
Four of the six schools which were chosen by report authors for closer inspections were among the six schools with the highest enrollment numbers. While the report did not offer school names, it did note that the schools were located in an urban setting and had enrollments of over 1,000 students.
Report authors suggest the use of a teacher who is certified in the particular subject to be put in place during class times for the credit recovery courses. The majority of teachers who oversaw credit recovery courses were found to be either math or English teachers. In addition, the report suggests the use of academic resources available at the school and recommends that the relationship between academy instructors, in-school facilitators, and students should be strengthened, writes Matt Hoffman for The Billings Gazette.
While smaller schools do not have the same level of resources at their disposal such as a number of certified teachers available to oversee the online sessions, the relationship between students and teachers can sometimes be closer at these schools.
"I think it's a mixed burden on schools," Neiffer said. "There are trade-offs in both directions. There really is no one great way to do it, based on staffing."
The report also looked at issues faced by the online academy in traditional school settings such as teacher skepticism pertaining to the academic level of online coursework and low student attendance rates. A separate report due to be released later in June will handle these issues.
"I think there is a misconception that you can just put a kid in front of a computer and have them be motivated by themselves," said Sarah Frazelle, the report's lead researcher.
Conclusions to the report note the small sample size and suggest that additional research is needed. However, Frazelle does state that despite the small sample size, the supports discussed are necessary for success.