This blog post is the second in MVLRI’s series on online credit recovery programs in Michigan, examining their intended purposes and key outcomes, the benefits of having online credit recovery programs available for their students, the challenges and opportunities that schools have faced in implementing an online credit recovery program, and the key lessons learned. Each post in the series is accompanied by a podcast interview with our participants, which you can find at the end of the posts. The first post in the series is also currently available online.
Kenowa Hills High School, in Grand Rapids, MI, offers many different opportunities for its students to learn online, including the ability to make up credits where needed. Jared Herron, the Director of Online Learning, oversees all of the online learning initiatives for the school, including the credit recovery program. Jared has been working in the field of online learning for nine years, and has seen the program as well as the field at large grow and evolve over time.
Jared says that one of the main goals of the program is to close the achievement gap as measured by state testing. Secondly, another main goal is to increase the district’s graduation rate in his district. The students participating in the online credit recovery program are expected to attend the brick-and-mortar school building and are held to attendance standards by school staff. Students meet in a lab at different periods of the day to work on their courses. The school does have a one-to-one device setup, allowing students some flexibility about where on campus they choose to work on their courses with their devices. Also under the umbrella of the Kenowa Hills online learning program is an initiative called Pathways, which is the “seat-time-waiver” program, in which students must be present in the school building for a minimum of 15 hours per week. Typically, however, most of the 50 Pathways students choose to be in school 25 to 30 hours per week, using the workspace and mentoring support available to them. While the majority of the students participating in that program are also credit deficient, Pathways is considered separate from the main online credit recovery program.
In the first semester of the 2016-17 school year, the credit recovery program saw a completion rate above 80%, accounting for over 100 courses taken in the semester. Jared attributes this success to a high level of structure with clearly articulated expectations for students who participate in an online course and their parents. Additionally, Jared and his team do all they can to ensure that the online options they offer their students are flexible, customizable, and fit within the larger curricular context of the school and district. On-site teachers and facilitators of online courses, in addition to mentors, participate in frequent reviews of the online content being offered and think about ways to change or augment the instruction to ensure holistic learning experiences for their students.
Jared also touches on the importance of highlighting the successes that the program achieves, including growth in completion rates and graduation rates, to demonstrate for the administration what a well-run online program can accomplish. For example, Jared sends weekly newsletters to parents and administrators to tell success stories of students participating in the program and even highlights program alumni who are now enrolled in college classes. These stories and this concrete data might, in turn, convince administrators to invest more in solid mentoring structures for students and more intentional design of online programs.
You can learn more about the Kenowa Hills online learning program and Jared himself by visiting their website.