Study Examines Online Credit Recovery Enrollment and Passing Rates in Montana


June 28, 2016


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REL Northwest and the Institute of Education Sciences have released a study examining online credit recovery through the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA), Montana’s state public virtual school. MTDA provides online education opportunities to Montana students through courses taught by licensed Montana teachers. The study analyzed course enrollment and passing rates for students enrolled during the 2013-2014 school year.

“Online credit recovery options allow schools to serve students throughout the year, across a range of subjects, and with few additional resources,” said Sarah Frazelle, coauthor of the study. “Demand for online credit recovery courses is expected to grow steadily; however, there is little research on which students take advantage of these courses and how well they perform.”

A total of 2,452 students accounted for 3,763 unique enrollments in MTDA online credit recovery courses during the 2013–2014 school year. MTDA’s overall credit recovery passing rate is 57 percent, which falls at the high end of the range found in prior studies of online classes. Students in grades 10 and 11 made up the largest proportion of students, and students enrolled in English language arts more than any other subject area.

“Failing a course in ninth grade is one of the strongest predictors that a student might not graduate,” said Frazelle. “Schools may want to help students recover failed classes immediately, especially in core subjects like English, in order to help them stay on track for graduation. The results of this study also suggest that students would benefit from additional supports from schools and districts.”

REL Northwest found that students who take one MTDA online credit recovery course per semester have lower passing rates than those who take multiple courses in a semester. Districts who allow students to enroll in more than one course in a semester are required to provide extra time and support for those students.

“We welcome all opportunities to look at our data to help inform program decisions as we work to serve students and schools in Montana,” said Jason Neiffer, Assistant Director/Curriculum Director of MTDA. “Our credit recovery students make up the most challenging population that schools serve, requiring a regular look at our outcomes to determine the best course of action for student success.”

Based on internal analysis of its success data, MTDA has rolled out several new design enhancements in the last two school years, including a simplified course organization, increased access to live tutoring for students struggling on particular assignments or concepts, and an increased expectation of local schools to build a supportive environment around credit recovery students.

Online Credit Recovery: Enrollment and Passing Patterns in Montana Digital Academy Courses can be found on the Institute of Education Sciences website.