REL Northwest Report Shares Successful Strategies from Online Credit Recovery Courses in Montana


June 16, 2016


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A new report from REL Northwest examines the strategies used by six Montana schools with higher than average student passing rates in online credit recovery courses offered by the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA). The report finds that successful schools provided instructional support, consistent program structure, data monitoring tools, and built relationships with students and MTDA staff.

“What we learned by talking with schools in Montana is that students need additional support from school staff in order to be successful in taking online credit recovery courses,” said Sarah Frazelle, author of the report. “It’s not enough to simply provide the technology to take the courses—students need encouragement, monitoring, and an active learning environment.”

Credit recovery plays a key role in supporting students in reaching on-time graduation. Students who fail critical courses must make up the credit through face-to-face courses during non-school hours such as summer school, repeat the course during the regular school year, or complete an online credit recovery course. The MTDA Connect Credit Recovery Program comprises 50 courses for credit recovery in subject areas such as English language arts, math, science, social studies, and several electives.

“Along with well-designed online content, credit recovery students benefit most when there is strong collaboration and communication between the school support person and the MTDA online teacher,” said Jason Neiffer, assistant director of MTDA. “This study is consistent with what we have seen in practice, and its findings reinforce the critical nature of this relationship and the impact it has on the success of credit recovery students.”

While the overall passing rate for students taking MTDA credit recovery courses was 57 percent in the 2013/14 school year, individual school-level rates ranged from 0–100 percent, with the median rate near 60 percent. District leaders in Montana and across the country are looking for evidence on how to best support students who are using online credit recovery programs.

“While this study was specific to Montana, information from this report could be part of any school’s discussion on successful implementation strategies for online credit recovery programs,” said Frazelle. “When working with a population of students that hasn’t had success in a course the first time around, creating consistent program structure and a space for caring adults to build relationships with students is key—no matter where you live.”