Assessing the Efficacy of Online Credit Recovery on Student Learning and High School Graduation

Image of high school students at a computer

Although the main analysis for the Online Credit Recovery Study took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have identified implications for remote and hybrid learning of this and other online learning studies that AIR has conducted. Read this In the Field piece to learn more.

School districts across the country are increasingly using online courses to expand credit recovery options for high school students who need to recover credit after failing a course. However, the growing use of online credit recovery has considerably outpaced the research. As concerns mount over how much students learn in online courses, and as questions arise about how to best implement online credit recovery, there is a critical need for rigorous evidence about the use of online credit recovery.

AIR, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to study online credit recovery. The study focuses on first-year high school students who failed Algebra 1 or ninth-grade English (English 9) and retook the course during the summer before their second year of high school.

Listen to Jordan Rickles discuss the project on the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute's podcast.

The study has two main goals:

  1. Provide rigorous evidence about an online credit recovery course’s effects on student outcomes compared with a standard teacher-directed course.
  2. Describe how online credit recovery provides students with different educational experiences compared with a standard teacher-directed course.

The first phase of the project was completed in June 2022. During the first phase of the project we produced a series of research briefs that discuss the findings regarding the relative effect of the online credit recovery classes compared with the teacher-directed classes on students’ near-term outcomes, how the online and teacher-directed classes were implemented, and a cost analysis.

View more information about the summer 2022 student interviews.

Call for Participants
If you are a high school student taking an Algebra 1 or English 9 credit recovery class during the 2022 summer term and are interested in participating in an interview, have your parent or guardian review and sign this consent form and complete this informational form so we can determine if you are eligible to participate.

The second phase of the project started in July 2022. During this phase, the project will focus on four activities:

  • Reporting on findings regarding the relative effect of online credit recovery classes on students’ longer-term outcomes (e.g., high school graduation);
  • Further examining the characteristics of students who need credit recovery and how they progress through high school;
  • Providing student perspectives on their credit recovery experience through student interviews conducted during the summer of 2022; and
  • Describing the current national landscape for credit recovery through a district survey and interviews conducted during the spring of 2023.

Research Briefs

Brief 1 | Online Credit Recovery: Study Overview (October 2020, PDF)

The first brief provides an overview of the study, including descriptions of the study’s online learning model, participants, and implementation and study outcome measures.

Brief 2 | Online Credit Recovery: Initial Findings for Algebra 1 (October 2020, PDF)

The second brief highlights key findings about implementation and student academic outcomes at the end of the summer term for Algebra 1 credit recovery classes.

Brief 3 | Online Credit Recovery: Initial Findings for English 9 (October 2020, PDF)

The third brief highlights key findings about implementation and student academic outcomes at the end of the summer term for English 9 credit recovery classes.

Brief 4 | Online Credit Recovery: Resources and Costs (October 2020, PDF)

The fourth brief highlights key findings about the differences in the resources and costs between the online and teacher-directed credit recovery courses.

Brief 5 | Online Credit Recovery: Teachers’ Perspectives on Lessons Learned (June 2021, PDF)

The fifth brief sheds light on some of the challenges that teachers experienced in teaching an online credit recovery class and highlights five lessons learned for improving the implementation of online credit recovery classes.

Brief 6 | Online Credit Recovery: Patterns of Student Engagement in the Online Program (September 2021, PDF)

The sixth brief provides a more detailed look at how students in the online credit recovery classes engaged with and progressed through the online program.

Brief 7 | Online Credit Recovery: Evolution of an Implementation Model (September 2021, PDF)

The seventh brief describes how the school district’s approach to online courses evolved in response to preliminary findings from the study.

Technical Supplement (May 2021, PDF)

This technical supplement provides more details about the study sample, data, measures, and analyses.