Online Learning as a Remedy for Course Failure: An Assessment of Credit Recovery as an Intervention to Earn Credits and Graduate from High School
Viano, Samantha Lillian
The high school graduation rate has been rising each year since 2002 with new record-high graduation rates being set on an annual basis since 2011. However, national test score data indicate 12th grade test scores are either stagnating or declining. This dissertation explores one possible explanation for this pattern: credit recovery courses. Credit recovery (CR) refers to online courses that high school students take after previously failing the course. The purpose of this dissertation is to elucidate the patterns in CR enrollment, potential benefits of CR, and unintended consequences of CR. Using data from North Carolina, this study is the first to utilize statewide administrative data to investigate CR, including courses offered by public and private entities. The first chapter investigates descriptive patterns in CR enrollment finding growing enrollments in CR over time with an increasing proportion of students who fail courses enrolling in CR over repeating the course traditionally, with evidence indicating CR is crowding out the option to repeat courses in full. Additional evidence finds that enrolling in CR is associated with a higher odds of earning credits for previously failed courses as compared to students who repeat courses traditionally. Findings from the second chapter indicate that students who fail courses and enroll in CR are more likely to graduate from high school than other students who fail courses using fixed effects with matching. The third chapter leverages the recent implementation of CR options in select North Carolina high schools for a comparative interrupted time series approach to explore the impact of adding CR options at the school level on graduation and dropout rates as well as potential unintended consequences. Results from this essay indicate CR implementation leads to lower graduation rates and test scores, and increasing credit recovery enrollment is associated with higher initial course failure rates and higher passing rates of previously failed courses.