Online Credit Recovery Series: Buchanan High School

This blog post is the thir­­d and final 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 and second post in the series are also currently available online.

Students at Buchanan High School in Buchanan, Michigan, are supported in many different ways when it comes to taking credit recovery classes online. Cindy Swem, who serves as one of the school’s guidance counselors, is heavily involved with the program and provides a broad perspective on the processes and procedures that go into maintaining it. In the fall semester of 2016-17, the program saw a completed/passed rate of 92%, with a total of 59 students participating and passing 72 courses. Cindy attributes this success to a number of different factors.

Cindy notes that the school partners with My Virtual Academy, a Michigan-based provider of online courses, for their content and instruction. (The online course provider also offers extensive professional development support to the mentor.) The vast majority of Buchanan students taking credit recovery courses do so as part of their normal school day, attending the physical school building. Before making the decision to enroll in the credit recovery program, many stakeholders become involved in the conversation, including students, parents, other teachers, and the guidance office. Each student’s individual needs, including accommodations, and preferences are taken into consideration before they are counseled into or away from the online credit recovery option.

The adults working with students participating in the program are focused on cultivating a positive, encouraging learning environment. Once enrolled, students complete their coursework in what they call the ELAB, which is a dedicated space in the library open for six periods per day. Cindy cites the support that students get in the ELAB as crucial to their success, for example, the many one-on-one interventions, both with their mentors and their distance instructors, as well as check-ins with the guidance office. The mentor who oversees the ELAB is dedicated to ensuring students are progressing at a reasonable pace, providing motivation and helping with goal-setting. The mentor establishes an environment that is conducive to learning for each student, so there is flexibility for things like listening to music or working with peers on assignments. Perhaps most importantly, Cindy says to “remember that students have bad days, just like you and me. Celebrate small successes – good quiz/test/exam results, note taking, or exhibiting a positive attitude.”

In addition to those individualized supports, Cindy notes that having a well-planned structure in place helps things run smoothly, including student binders that contain technology setup information, logins and passwords, and clear expectations for students in the completion of their courses. Incentives for those students who finish courses early are built into the program as well, and those that need additional help have the option of attending after-school lab hours for support and access to technology. It’s clear that with the success they’re seeing, Buchanan will likely continue to dedicate more resources to the growth of this program in the future.

You can learn more about Buchanan High School by visiting their website.

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