Virtual School Meanderings

July 22, 2021

Is credit recovery up to the task?

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 12:04 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

While not specifically the focus, as much of the credit recovery in the US these days happens online, this is a fairly relevant item for us these days.

July 21, 2021

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! Matt Barnum, Kalyn Belsha, and Sarah Darville here, working to help you make sense of efforts to improve education across the country. 

The big story


A teacher leans over to help a student who is studying at the computer.


A startling rise in failing grades during the pandemic was one of the most worrying signs that students were struggling.

Now, high schools in particular face a challenge: figuring out how to help those students recover academically without falling off track for graduation.

For many schools, the go-to method is online credit recovery. But it has major downsides. The biggest? Several studies raise serious questions about whether students actually learn the content this way, finding that it’s not uncommon for a student to guess or Google their way through.

“Doing credit recovery well is the hardest thing that we can do in education,” said Nat Malkus of the American Enterprise Institute, who has studied the spread of credit recovery programs across the country.

But educators and researchers say now is the moment to make credit recovery better. Here’s how.

Also from the national desk

Big education funders seek “breakthrough ideas.” Backed by $200 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation, a new organization is seeking to develop ideas to dramatically improve student outcomes. Its first projects will focus on assessments and the connection between executive functioning skills and math. The ambitions are for “moonshots,” though as one observer told us, “We have heard that promise made for literally over a century and yet we have not seen it happen.” Read more.

Local stories to watch

  • At least 18 full-time virtual schools have opened in Michigan since the start of the pandemic. The state is seeing a virtual learning boom, as online charter schools target families who prefer online learning and school districts open virtual programs to compete. Detroit approved a new virtual school this week.
  • Masks will be mandatory in Memphis classrooms in the upcoming school year. The decision makes Shelby County Schools one of the only districts in the state planning to require masks. Vaccination rates remain low in the state, which is seeing COVID cases increase as the more contagious Delta variant spreads.
  • Black and Latino boys in Chicago saw dramatic attendance dips last year. Attendance in the second quarter was only 77% for Black boys in high school, a drop one researcher called “really shocking.” It’s the latest evidence that the pandemic may have hit boys especially hard in Chicago and nationwide.
  • Summer school staffing remains a scramble in New York City. After the city expanded summer programming, more than 200,000 students signed up. Now, some nonprofits are relying on a rotating cast of substitutes and an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep students engaged.

Photo by Aaricka Washington / Chalkbeat

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