Assessing the Efficacy of Online Credit Recovery on Student Learning and High School Graduation

Image of high school students at a computer

School districts across the country are increasingly using online courses to expand credit recovery options for high school students who need to recover credit after failing a course. However, the growing use of online credit recovery for high school students has considerably outpaced the research. As concerns mount over how much students learn in online courses, and as questions arise about how to best implement online credit recovery, there is a critical need for rigorous evidence about the use of online credit recovery for high school students.

Although the Online Credit Recovery Study took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have identified implications for remote and hybrid learning of this and other online learning studies that AIR has conducted. Read this In the Field piece to learn more.

AIR, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to study online credit recovery. The study focuses on first-year high school students who failed Algebra 1 or ninth-grade English (English 9) and retook the course during the summer before their second year of high school.

Within each participating school, the study used a lottery to determine whether each student took the school’s typical teacher-directed class or a class that used an online learning model. The online classes used a curriculum supplied by an online provider and included an in-class teacher whose role was to monitor students as they worked through the course and to provide supplemental instruction targeted to students’ needs. The credit recovery classes for the study took place during summer 2018 and summer 2019 in 24 LAUSD high schools.

Listen to Jordan Rickles discuss the project on the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute's podcast.

The study has two main goals:

  1. Provide rigorous evidence about the blended-learning course’s effects on student outcomes compared with a standard teacher-directed course.
  2. Describe how the blended-learning course provides students with different instructional experiences compared with a standard teacher-directed course.

The project will produce a series of research briefs that discuss the findings regarding the relative effect of the online credit recovery classes compared with the teacher-directed classes on students’ near- and longer-term outcomes, how the online and teacher-directed classes were implemented, and a cost analysis.

Research Briefs

Brief 1 | Online Credit Recovery: Study Overview (October 2020, PDF)

The first brief provides an overview of the study, including descriptions of the study’s online learning model, participants, and implementation and study outcome measures.

Brief 2 | Online Credit Recovery: Initial Findings for Algebra 1 (October 2020, PDF)

The second brief highlights key findings about implementation and student academic outcomes at the end of the summer term for Algebra 1 credit recovery classes.

Brief 3 | Online Credit Recovery: Initial Findings for English 9 (October 2020, PDF)

The third brief highlights key findings about implementation and student academic outcomes at the end of the summer term for English 9 credit recovery classes.

Brief 4 | Online Credit Recovery: Resources and Costs (October 2020, PDF)

The fourth brief highlights key findings about the differences in the resources and costs between the online and teacher-directed credit recovery courses.

Brief 5 | Online Credit Recovery: Teachers’ Perspectives on Lessons Learned (June 2021, PDF)

The fifth brief sheds light on some of the challenges that teachers experienced in teaching an online credit recovery class and highlights five lessons learned for improving the implementation of online credit recovery classes.

Brief 6 | Online Credit Recovery: Patterns of Student Engagement in the Online Program (September 2021, PDF)

The sixth brief provides a more detailed look at how students in the online credit recovery classes engaged with and progressed through the online program.

Brief 7 | Online Credit Recovery: Evolution of an Implementation Model (September 2021, PDF)

The seventh brief describes how the school district’s approach to online courses evolved in response to preliminary findings from the study.

Technical Supplement (May 2021, PDF)

This technical supplement provides more details about the study sample, data, measures, and analyses.

Jordan Rickles
Principal Researcher
Image of Jessica Heppen
Senior Vice President, Human Services Division